Roe homicide trial continues with forensic science testimony

March 25, 2014
Lana Kay Roe is lead into Greene County court during her retrial for the homicide death of Cordele Edward Patterson. - Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – The second day of testimony in the homicide retrial against Lana Kay Roe, 41, of Daisytown focused on forensic evidence.

Roe and her husband, Jason William Roe, 35, were accused of homicide in the Aug. 14, 2012 death of 38-year old Cordele Edward Patterson at a hunting cabin on Strawn Hill Road near Spraggs. Roe’s husband, Jason William Roe, 35, was found guilty of first-degree murder in a November jury trial. He was later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The jury in that trial did not reach a verdict on the homicide charge against Lana Roe forcing Judge William Nalitz to declare a mistrial.

Testimony Tuesday included multiple forensic services experts from the state police taking the witness stand.

Trooper Jason A. Altman was the first to testify. Altman showed the jury a diagram he created using a computer program that depicted the interior of the cabin as it appeared when he entered it the afternoon of the shooting.

Trooper Todd M. Porter was next to take the stand. Porter told the court he was present at the autopsy performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht in Pittsburgh to take evidentiary photographs.

As Porter’s photographs, depicting Patterson’s flesh torn wounds were shown to the jury, spectators in the courtroom familiar with Patterson, including family members, wiped tears. Lana Roe also cried as the graphic images were brought up on a computer screen where she was seated.

In later testimony, Wecht described the images captured in Porter’s photographs of shotgun wounds to Patterson’s neck, upper arm and chest area.

Wecht told the court the lack of pellet markings externally on Patterson indicated to him the shots were fired at close range.

During the initial trial, Jason Roe’s defense attorney, Harry Cancelmi, disputed the distance from which Jason Roe shot Patterson, claiming it was several feet away.

However, Wecht said in his opinion, the shots were fired from “a few to several inches” from Patterson.

Although one of two shots fired left a gaping 5-by-3-inch hole in Patterson’s neck, Wecht said this shot, with quick and proper medical attention, would not have caused his death.

It was the second shot that entered Patterson’s arm and traveled into his chest that would have killed him, Wecht said.

That shot broke ribs in both the right and left sides and perforated the descending aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body.

The perforation caused the left chest cavity to fill with roughly 33 ounces of blood and the right with 11 to 12 ounces, according to Wecht.

“The arm (wound) would absolutely have led to his death. There is no way he could have been salvaged,” Wecht said. Wecht said he could not determine which of the shots were fired first into Patterson.

There was extensive testimony given by state police forensic scientist Sarah L. Kinneer regarding serology, or the study of bodily fluids. Kinneer tested evidence from the crime scene for blood and other bodily fluids.

Kinneer said she found possible blood on a number of items, including articles of clothing from Patterson, Lana Roe and Jason Roe, and on weapons seized by police in relation to the crime scene. Kinneer said she did presumptive testing that confirms the possibility that a stain is blood. She followed that up with confirmatory tests that are designed to identify it within a reasonable scientific degree of certainty.

Kinneer’s samples were then forwarded to state police forensic DNA scientist, Angela Difiore. Difiore told the court she compared test results from ten items to three DNA reference samples. The first was extracted from dried blood belonging to Patterson and the other two from mouth swabs taken from the Roes.

Difiore was able to exclude Patterson’s DNA from all of the samples she received.

She determined there was a mixture of Lana and Jason Roe’s DNA present on the strap and pump action grip of the Mossburg 500 shotgun used to shoot Patterson. A third person’s DNA was also present, but Difiore said it was of insufficient quantity to determine who that person might be. Jason Roe’s DNA was found on the pistol grip of the Mossburg, but Lana Roe’s was not, Difiore said.

The DNA of both Roes was found on the slide of the Glock 17 pistol along with a third unidentifiable DNA source, Difiore said. Only Lana Roe’s DNA was found on the bottom grip of the magazine of the Glock.

A .38 Special revolver, found on the backseat floor of Lana Roe’s Jeep revealed Jason Roe’s DNA on the grip along with the DNA of two other unknown individuals. His DNA was also found on the trigger, release and hammer of the revolver with another unidentified DNA source. Lana Roe’s DNA was not found on this weapon, according to Difiore.

Cpl. Mark A. Garrett, a state police forensic scientist with a concentration in ballistics, told the court he tested the Glock 17 and the Mossburg against spent shell casings sent to his lab. His conclusion was that all but one of the fired shotgun shells definitively came from the Mossburg shotgun and all of the fired cartridges were from the Glock 17.

In brief testimony, Heidi Hoge, of Waynesburg, a friend of Lana Roe, told the court Lana Roe came to her residence the evening of Aug. 13, 2012 to pick up Hoge’s now ex-boyfriend, Joshua Eddy. Hoge said she was in the back yard with her son and neighbor children when she saw Lana Roe’s white Jeep pull up to their residence. Hoge said she did not see Lana Roe herself or note any occupant in the Jeep when it arrived. She said Eddy came back around 10:30 p.m. but did not recall seeing Lana Roe’s vehicle at that time.

Assistant District Attorney Linda Chambers called for Eddy to take the stand but he was not present in the courtroom.

Defense attorney Michael Bigley stipulated to the contents of videos from the 7-11 store in Morrisville, and the drive-thru window of the former McDonalds Restaurant on Sugar Run Road, from the night before Patterson was murdered. Both videos were shown to the jury in the first trial. In the first, Eddy, Lana Roe and Patterson are seen making purchases at the 7-11 store and exiting about 10 minutes later. In the second video, Lana Roe and Patterson purchase cheeseburgers at the drive-thru window of the McDonalds at roughly 11:23 p.m.

Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. today. Lead investigator, state trooper Jeremy Barni, is expected to take the stand.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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