Crime scene tech testifies about keeping murder scene dry


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A member of the city police department’s crime lab testified in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court about efforts to keep a June 2017 murder scene on the West Side dry.

On Monday, patrolman Greg Miller described how officers, supervisors and others held umbrellas and tarps and blankets over an SUV that contained the body of Rae’venne Faircloth-Thomas, 24, who was shot to death about 12:30 p.m. June 23, 2017, on Oneta Street.

Dashonti Baker, 26, of Millet Avenue, is charged with aggravated murder in her death. Trial in his case began last week before Judge Anthony Donofrio. A co-defendant, Barraya Hickson, 26, pleaded guilty last week to a charge of obstruction of justice.

“Throughout the investigation, it started pouring [rain] several times,” Miller said.

One of the things he did was try to help Detectve D.P. Scott, his supervisor, keep his camera dry before collecting DNA swabs on the outside and inside of the SUV where someone might have used the door handle. Miller said weather can degrade the conditions of DNA, so he wanted to collect it as fast as possible.

Some water was also seeping into the SUV through a bullet hole in the driver’s-side window. Faircloth-Thomas was slumped against the driver’s-side door in such a way that if the door had opened, she would have fallen out, Miller testified.

About a week later, Miller and Scott examined the SUV again at a police impound lot and found a 9 mm handgun under the passenger’s seat and a 9 mm shell casing on the dashboard. On the day she was killed, police found a .40-caliber handgun inside the SUV, but police say neither of those two guns was the murder weapon.

The same day Miller and Scott re-examined the SUV, Miller was called to Mill Creek Park by their police department after someone found a 9 mm handgun wrapped in a Walmart bag in a creek. Police believe that gun was the gun used to kill Faircloth-Thomas.

Miller said he didn’t know if any DNA was ever found on the SUV or whose it was.

In the afternoon, an analyst who examines DNA said Baker’s DNA was not found in the SUV’s door handles or on the gun that was found in the park.

Police zeroed in on Baker as the suspect because a car witnesses said was at the shooting scene had a distinctive piece of carpet over a broken window, and that car was found at his Millet Avenue home.

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