STANARDSVILLE -- Two days after testimony revealed key DNA evidence is missing in the triple murder case against Taybronne Altereik White, a Greene County judge dismissed a motion for mistrial.
Defense attorney Edward Ungvarsky moved for a mistrial shortly after the fifth day of the trial began Monday morning, after Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald Morris questioned Greene sheriff’s Sgt. Rodney Snead about the defense’s ability to review evidence against White before the trial began.
White, 28, is charged in the May 3, 2011, shooting deaths of Dustin Tyler Knighton, 25, Brian Robert Daniels, 26, and Lisa Hwang, 26. Their bodies were found in the wee hours of the morning on Octonia Road just north of Stanardsville.
Snead testified that some evidence bags had been sealed with new pieces of tape after attorneys reviewed their contents before the trial began.
Ungvarsky objected, and then moved for a mistrial when Morris asked Snead who was present to review the evidence.
The validity of key evidence in the case against White has been questioned throughout the case, after former Greene sheriff’s evidence technician James Shifflett pleaded guilty in January to embezzlement, after he stole nearly $19,000 in cash, including money from the White case, from evidence lockers.
“When the commonwealth brings out that the defense had access to the evidence, and Officer Shifflett has testified that he didn’t take the [DNA samples], and Officer Snead testified that he didn’t take them, the implication is that the defense had something to do with it,” Ungvarsky said.
Bouton disagreed with Ungvarsky and asked both sides to continue with witness testimony.
“I would urge both sides to move efficiently, so we can move through other evidence in the case,” Bouton said.
Morris called witnesses from the Virginia State Police, Chief Medical Examiner’s Office and Virginia Department of Forensic Science on Monday to go over physical evidence from inside Hwang’s 2010 Honda Civic, fingerprints from the car and the victims’ autopsy reports.
Janine Childress, a fingerprint expert with the Department of Forensic Science, said she examined more than 30 prints taken from the Civic, but only five were usable. Of those, none belonged to White, she said.
One of the prints, found on the passenger-side sun visor, belonged to Hwang, she said. Childress said she could not determine who left the rest of the prints.
Deborah Kay, Virginia assistant chief medical examiner, said all three victims had been shot multiple times, and all had died from at least one wound. Knighton and Hwang were both killed by gunshot wounds to the head, Kay said.
Knighton had two additional superficial gunshot wounds, she said.
Daniels died of a gunshot wound that damaged his left lung, liver and two major blood vessels, Kay said. Daniels had three other non-lethal wounds, she said.
Hwang was shot in the head four times, Kay said.
Kay testified that the shots that hit Daniels and Knighton had entered from the right, and moved right to left. Hwang’s was shot from both sides, and the bullets moved toward her feet.
Because the victims were lying on a table during the autopsy, Kay said, it was impossible for her to speculate on their position when they were shot.
“[The autopsy] has no reflection on what way they were holding their arms, whether they were sitting, standing or twisting or turning,” she said.
Virginia State Police Special Agent Dino Capuzzo, a blood stain pattern expert, said he examined the Civic a month after the shooting, and found blood stains consistent with drips, spatter and a bloody object being dragged across a car seat.
Capuzzo also testified that it appeared that some trash and other small items in the car had been moved by other investigators.
“One specific item of trash that was on the floor had spot stains on it, but no void under it, indicating it had been moved at some point,” he told defense attorney Michael Hemenway.
The White trial continues Tuesday morning in Greene County.