LAWRENCE COUNTY Jury sees murder-scene photos
The defense attorney said the bloody photos would prejudice the jury against his client.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Thomas Kimbell kept his head down and wrote on a yellow legal pad as the bloody photographs appeared on a computer screen before him.
The pictures showed the Pulaski Township trailer where Bonnie Lou Dryfuse, 34, her daughters Jacqueline, 7, and Heather, 4; and her niece, Stephanie Herko, 5; were found dead just after 3 p.m. June 15, 1994.
The police photographs marked the second day of testimony in Kimbell's retrial in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. He was convicted of the killings in 1998 but granted a new trial by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because his attorney was not allowed to cross-examine a key witness in the first trial.
Kimbell, 40, could again face the death penalty if convicted.
Richard Matas, a retired criminal investigator for the Pennsylvania State Police, took jurors through a series of outside photographs and some inside the Ambrosia Road trailer where Dryfuse and the children were found by Thomas Dryfuse, Bonnie Lou's husband.
More pictures are expected today, despite objections by Kimbell's attorney Thomas Leslie.
They were displayed on a large computer screen in front of the jurors and smaller screens in the desks of the judge and attorneys.
Leslie asked that photographs showing the victims not be shown to the jury because of their gruesome nature. The victims had multiple stab wounds.
Judge Dominick Motto agreed to withhold two photographs that showed a close view of the three children but allowed five others that Leslie asked be kept out.
Jurors saw about half of the photographs Monday before court ended.
Matas explained how blood splashes and splatters, depending on the struggle and types of wounds a person receives from a knife.
He also hinted at the struggle Bonnie Lou Dryfuse put up against her attacker, showing a metal kitchen chair with a bent leg and a scraped tile cut from the ceiling just above where her body was found.
The prosecutor in his opening statement talked about the fight she had with her attacker and how she likely tried to use the chair to defend herself.
Matas described her wounds, which included a slit throat, a large wound to her stomach, her breast area and defensive wounds on her left hand and arms.
"There were multiple blows struck in different fashions," he said.
The photographs showed blood smeared on the kitchen counter, table, stove and refrigerator.
Matas pointed out there was blood below a cup and a bag of hamburger buns, two clues that helped investigators rule out Thomas Dryfuse as the killer.
Dryfuse testified Friday that he arrived home that day with the buns and mug and put them on the counter before discovering the bodies.
Matas said that if those items had been there before the murders, blood would have splashed onto them.
More testimony from Matas is expected today.
Anthony Krastek of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office is prosecuting the case because Lawrence County District Attorney Matthew Mangino previously defended Kimbell in another matter before being elected.