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NOTE TO READERS: There are some parts of this story that include disturbing details that have been presented during the trial.
YARMOUTH, NS – The word quadrillion was thrown out often during a Supreme Court murder trial in Yarmouth on Jan. 17.
“The estimated probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random in the Canadian Caucasian population with the same profile is one in 140 quadrillion,” forensic specialist Jeff Moy repeated numerous times when relaying the results of DNA testing done on objects and evidence related to the September 2020 death of Yarmouth County resident Colton Cook.
Other times he threw out figures such as one in 7.5 quadrillion, one in 650 trillion and one in 17 billion.
The DNA testing linked the victim to evidence collected during the investigation, which included parts of a chainsaw, a machete and personal items found outside a South Ohio residence where it is alleged Cook was killed at some point after arriving there late on the evening of Sept. 25, 2020.
Crown evidence has stated that Cook was shot and stabbed, and also that his right leg was cut off.
The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Matthew Bowes, previously testified that Cook likely died from blood loss and multiple injuries. The amputation of the leg, he believed, was done after Cook’s death.
To put the DNA rarity into perspective, Moy told the court and the 14-member jury, “One in 140 quadrillion is an extremely, extremely rare profile, meaning that the match to the profile is extremely significant.”
One quadrillion, he pointed out, is the number one with 15 zeroes after it.
“So it’s beyond million and billion and trillion,” Moy said. “It’s a very large number.”
Yarmouth County resident Robert Charles Rogers is standing trial, charged with second-degree murder and interference with human remains. The court also heard about DNA testing that links “suspect one” – in this case Rogers – to identified portions of the Crown evidence.
In its cross-examination, the defence questioned how long DNA remains on an object. Moy said it’s impossible for him to tell when and how a DNA profile has gotten there.
“However, there are some factors that can influence whether biological material or DNA will remain on an exhibit,” he said. “DNA can last a very long time if it’s in the right conditions; and those conditions would be some place that is away from direct sunlight, some place cool and dry.”
He said sunlight, moisture and heat can quickly degrade biological materials, including DNA.
Asked by defence attorney Nicholaus Fitch whether a DNA profile can declare whether a person was alive or deceased at the time their DNA was left on an item, Moy said there is no way to determine that.
This sixth day of the trial had started out with the continued defence cross-examination of Crown witness Keith Siscoe Jr. who the day before had given graphic testimony about the injuries that Cook had received from Rogers and a co-accused, Wayne Crawford.
Siscoe said Rogers attacked and slashed Cook in multiple areas of his body with a machete and that Crawford stabbed him with a knife in his chest area.
Crawford has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced in May.
Siscoe has pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and is to be sentenced on Feb. 3.
In its cross-examination, the defence continued to challenge Siscoe on what it said were inconsistencies between his police statements and trial testimony.
Fitch also called Siscoe’s memory into question, pointing out in his police statements he had told the police he didn’t remember much of what had happened at the South Ohio residence and also that his brain was not working well at that time.
Siscoe admitted during his testimony the day before that he had purposely left things out of his statements because he didn’t want the police to know of his involvement in the matter.
But Fitch still questioned Siscoe about his ability to remember the events given that he was intoxicated and also because he has admitted that he has issues in general with his memory.
He also suggested that Siscoe’s memory would have been fresher when he gave his statements to the police in 2020 compared to now, trying to recall things over two years later.
Siscoe agreed he does have issues with his memory in general, but he maintained he remembers much about that night.
“I can remember a lot that had happened. It was very chaotic, I couldn’t forget,” he said.
Fitch also noted that in police statements, Siscoe often referred to a hatchet as opposed to a machete. He asked Siscoe if he knew the difference.
Siscoe said he does and that the mistaken references in his statement were a “vocabulary issue.”
On re-direct, Crown attorney Saara Wilson noted that in other parts of his police statements, Siscoe did use the word machete when speaking with the RCMP.
The Jan. 17 court day ended with testimony from Sgt. Adrian Butler, a blood stain pattern analyst with the RCMP.
With the aid of photographs, Butler walked the court and the jury through the blood evidence that was observed and collected at the scene where Cook died, which included blood stains and spatter stains in many areas and on different surfaces. He also spoke of transfer stains as well.
Butler paid special attention on educating the jury about bloodstain patterns, noting they fall into three categories.
One is the gravity category and includes blood droppings or flow.
Another is force-related, which includes spatter stains and cast off.
The third is transference.
In cross-examination by the defence, Butler was asked if he can tell how old blood stains are when he’s examining a scene.
He says at a scene he will do testing when blood stains appear to be old. He noted sometimes older blood is darker in colour.
“If it’s really old, it’s not part of the scene,” he said. “But in this case, everything seemed to be aged the same.”
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