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Second Opinion ServicesSM (Unsolved /Cold Cases)
Case #1

Listed below are two letters received from POMC's experts, Dr. Harry Bonnell and Judge Robert Ruehlman, after a case information that was submitted by a survivor.

March, 17, 1997

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Miller,

I have reviewed the materials you provided me regarding the death of your daughter, Linda Smith. I have received a copy of the Coroner's autopsy and toxicology report today.

It is my understanding that the Police Department turned this death investigation over to another county's homicide division who did not pick up clothing from residence (sealed by previous county). Neighbors reportedly heard screaming and the sound of a body being slammed onto floor. One shoe was found 23 feet further away from building than the body (between body and a dumpster); the matching shoe was never found. A business partner of Mr. Smith's came to help clean up prior to the 911 call being made. The dumpster was never searched.

Photos show a beer can (reportedly full) on top of a cardboard box near the balcony. The balcony wall is 48 inches high; the maximum height from the top of the balcony wall to the ground directly below is 29 feet. Linda's body was found 9 feet away from the vertical to the balcony, allegedly roughly parallel to the curb but on pavement.

Evidence analysis revealed: There is mud on front of left knee of jeans but no other stains noted.

Autopsy was performed by Dr. Jones. I also reviewed the hospital chart and x-ray films. They document the following:

  1. Bilateral peri-orbital ecchymosis, lips and tongue without trauma, a left subdural hematoma, left epidural hematoma and left cerebral contusion.
  2. Gaping transellar basal skull fracture, bilateral orbital plate fractures, bilateral Colle's fractures (wrists), knee abrasions (small), linear abrasion left medial thigh, left medial ankle abrasion, parallel abrasion back of left calf down to Achilles. No abrasions front of legs. Ribs and internal organs OK; no pulmonary contusions, pelvis intact, Left mandibular fracture.
  3. Blood Alcohol 0.195 mg%

There are three possible hypotheses of what happened to Linda and I will render my opinion on each of these.

She fell over the balcony
INCONSISTENCIES:
  • She was only 70 inches tall, allowing only 22 inches of upper chest and head to be above the top of the balcony; therefore; center of gravity well below top of balcony.
  • No abrasion or scrape marks on arms or front of legs.
  • No "balcony material" on jeans.
  • Found laying parallel to building nine feet out with only one mud mark on knee area of pants.
She climbed up on balcony and jumped
INCONSISTENCIES:
  • Blood alcohol 0.195 mg%,
  • Lands parallel to building,
  • No abrasion/scrape marks on hands/extremities
  • Nothing to step-up on.
Any scenario of fall/jump from the balcony
INCONSISTENCIES:
  • Left-sided head injuries consistent with a moving object hitting fixed head, not moving head hitting fixed object.
  • Left-sided head injuries and left-sided thigh injuries but NO left-sided abrasions and no left-sided injuries in chest or abdomen; prolonged survival yet no pulmonary contusion or abdominal trauma. No trauma to pelvis.
  • Left-sided landing could not produce abrasions on medial (right-side) aspect of left thigh and calf.
  • Bilateral Colle's fractures of wrists yet no abrasion/trauma to palms of hand.
  • Comminuted left femur fracture inconsistent with fall or impact on a broad surface, such as pavement.

In summary, my preliminary impression is that Linda was assaulted and her body positioned to appear that she jumped/fell from the balcony. Someone hit Linda with a large object on the left thigh resulting in the fractures. Someone hit her with a large object on the left side of head causing near-instantaneous loss of consciousness. The bilateral Colle's wrist fractures are due to a defensive posture (arms extended and palms facing assailant) while being struck, possibly by being forcefully thrown against a wall/floor. The absence of abrasion precludes pavement impact. The abrasions on the back of her left calf as well as those on the inner aspects of her left thigh and calf, the solitary site of mud on the left knee of the jeans, and the finding of one shoe in the pavement area, are more suggestive/consistent with movement/positioning of the body following infliction of the injuries. The amount of blood shown in the picture taken the following morning would indicate she had laid there for some period of time for that amount of blood to be present in view of the fact that she had no external lacerations or bleeding sites.

This was NOT an ACCIDENT nor a SUICIDE. It was a HOMICIDE with injuries inflicted by another. The severity of the injuries as well as their pattern, are totally inconsistent with a fall/jump from a height of 29 feet. If, in fact, a "business associate" arrived prior to the 911 call, this person needs to be questioned, possibly polygraphed, as to his participation in the assault/moving of the victim.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions in this matter; I am quite willing to discuss my opinion with the authorities in your state.

Sincerely,
Harry J. Bonnell, M.D.


Dear Mr. and Mrs. Miller,

I have reviewed the entire case file that pertained to your daughter Linda's death.

As a former prosecutor who has handled numerous murder cases, it is clear to me that your daughter was murdered.

The police who responded to the scene and those who investigated this case made numerous errors, however, they were able to obtain a statement from your daughter's husband. In that statement he explained your daughter fell to her death. This statement has completely been discredited by the physical evidence and the reports of Dr. Harry Bonnell and Dr. Michael Doberson.

Their conclusions were that Linda died as a result of blows to her head and body from a large blunt object and that she did not fall but rather he body was positioned below the balcony after the infliction of these injuries.

Any prosecutor that refuses to take this case to trial should be removed from office for failure to perform his or her sworn duties.

It is true that the police made mistakes but they do have her husband committed to a story that the physical evidence completely refutes. Any prosecutor knows that there is one "witness" in a murder who never lies and that "witness" is the victim. Your daughter, through the forensic testimony of Dr. Bonnell and Robertson can be resurrected before a jury. She will explain to that jury exactly what happened on that fateful evening and her testimony cannot be contradicted. It is there for the jury to grasp through the x-rays and other physical evidence and testimony of trained forensic pathologists.

Good luck in your pursuit of justice and if I can be of any further assistance, feel free to call me.

Sincerely,
Robert P. Ruehlman, Judge


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