A major step was taken Tuesday in the Joseph Wielzen murder trial, as the prosecution rested and the defense began to put forth its case in favor of the defendant.
The district attorney’s office called doctors from the Knox County Regional Forensic Center as their two final witnesses during the fifth day of the trial.
The first one to take the stand was Dr. Darinka Mileusnic, who is the chief medical examiner and was deemed as an expert in the field of medical forensics.
“The forensic autopsy actually starts at the (crime) scene,” said Mileusnic. “How the victim was found, what conditions they were in, and the state of the body.”
According to Mileusnic they also look through the victim’s medical history to determine if there were any factors that may have aided in the victim’s death.
“We have to see the importance of trauma vs disease,” said Mileusnic. “There are cases where one or the other has to be considered.”
Tenth Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump asked Mileusnic if she could describe her findings to the jury.
“The anatomical findings were … blunt force trauma to the head, resulting in extensive cranial cerebral injuries,” said Mileusnic.
Other injuries were also found on the body, consisting of a puncture wound on the victim’s right arm along with bruising and grass found inside of the body.
The state of the victim’s body made it difficult for the medical examiners to obtain more information due to the environment the body was found in.
“Because the victim was dead for several days and it was July and in a trash can … all that sped up the decomposition of the body,” Mileusnic explained.
After seeing Kelsey Burnette’s remains, Mileusnic was able to make a guess on the amount of blunt force trauma the victim received.
“When I examined Kelsey I said the area around her forehead had a minimum of four blows,” said Mileusnic.
Dr. Murray Marks, who works in forensic dentistry for the University of Tennessee and as a forensic anthropologist for the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, helped identify the victim as Kelsey Burnette through her dental records.
“My role was to identify the victim or to look at skeletal biology,” said Marks. “Once the identity was made my role became to specifically look at trauma.”
Marks agreed with Mileusnic’s reports but made a few findings of his own.
“What I did was take the remains, particularly the skull, and processed it,” said Marks. “Then reconstruct it so that I can understand the trauma aspect.”
He explained that it appeared much of the damage was to the front of Burnette’s head.
“The skull is divided into a bulb and a facial skeleton,” said Marks. “The main trauma was to the forehead region … the trauma came from left to right because of the way fracture patterns were.”
The prosecution rested their case after Marks left the stand, allowing the defense to call their own witnesses to the stand.
The first witness called by the defense was Troy Bradford, along with his wife, who lived in the house next door to the residence in question during the time of the incident.
Both told Defense Attorney Andy Brown that they remembered seeing everyone gather in the back yard of the house next door.
“They asked if they could come over and hang out,” said Bradford. “I told them no because they were underage and drinking.”
He did allow three of them over to the house to play games though.
According to the Bradfords, the guests left their house around 4 a.m.
They both claimed to not have heard or seen anything suspicious on that night.
The defense was set to continue its case on Wednesday.