FALLS CITY – Forensics were the focus on Thursday afternoon as the jury in the trial of Desiderio Hernandez were shown autopsy pictures of Joseph Debella Jr.
Forensic pathologist Michelle Elieff, who performed the autopsy, took the stand as a witness to the prosecution. Elieff has been involved in over 2,500 autopsies for her career, told the court that Debella died of a gunshot wound to the head and that in her opinion, the manner of death was a homicide.
Although, her opinion on the manner of death is independent of the legal system.
Debella’s x-rays were then shown to the jury and Elieff explained that the bullet entered Debella above the eyes, in the forehead region, before eventually lodging itself in the bottom portion of the head. Fragments from the bullet were found inside’s Debella’s head.
From there, autopsy photographs of Debella were displayed and Elieff went into further detail on the path of the bullet. She would not speculate on how the bullet got from the top to the bottom of the head, but did say that bullet paths can be unpredictable in gunshot wounds to the head.
Elieff could not say with certainty how far away the gun was from Debella, when it was fired. She did make known however, that oftentimes soot can be found around and inside the wound when the gun is fired at close range. She found no evidence to suggest that was the case.
After Elieff was dismissed, firearm examiner for the Nebraska State Patrol Amy Weber was called to the stand. Weber did several tests with the .22 caliber revolver that is believed to be the weapon that killed Debella.
While she could not confirm with certainty that the firearm was used in the shooting of Debella, she did tell the jury that the evidence suggests that it certainly could have.
She also could not determine the distance between the gun and Debella, but from her findings, it is unlikely that the gun was fired in very close range of Debella.
The prosecution was still questioning Weber when Judge Daniel Bryan called the trial for Thursday.
It will reconvene with further testimony Ms. Weber on Friday at 8:30 a.m. Judge Bryan said he hopes closing arguments take place sometime on Friday.