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Blood-Stain Evidence Challenged

Court: Defense expert says the splatters on Socorro Caro's pajamas weren't caused by her shooting her sons, as prosecutors allege.

October 10, 2001|STEVE CHAWKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Socorro Caro's pajama shorts bear no evidence of "high-velocity impact blood splatter"--the kind that often sprays back on assailants who gun down their victims at close range, according to testimony Tuesday in the Santa Rosa Valley woman's murder trial.

The testimony, given by a blood-splatter expert who testified for O.J. Simpson in his criminal trial, is crucial to the defense's claim that it wasn't the 44-year-old Caro who shot three of her young sons as they slept.

Caro's attorneys have suggested her physician husband framed her in the boys' deaths and then made it appear as if his wife had attempted suicide.

Testifying the entire day, Herbert MacDonell, a forensic scientist who runs a laboratory in Corning, N.Y., disputed the conclusions of the prosecution's blood expert, who told jurors two weeks ago that the stains on Caro's shorts suggest she killed her sons.

On Tuesday in Ventura County Superior Court, MacDonell offered a dramatically different view of the baggy striped shorts worn by Caro on Nov. 22, 1999--the night of the murders.

While scrutinizing the shorts in their plastic evidence bag, MacDonell said the staining pattern was "more consistent with a beating" than with a shooting.

In a point-blank shooting, he said, he'd expect to see a telltale mist of fine brownish dots on the shooter's clothing.

While a field of such dots were evident on the shorts, MacDonell testified it was smaller than he thought it would have been, especially in relation to larger drops of blood on the same garment.

"I'd have to conclude they're not high velocity," he said, suggesting that some of the blood pattern may have spattered Caro's shorts as an emergency medical crew fought to save her.

The night of the killings, she was found on her bedroom floor with a near-fatal gunshot wound to the brain.

"It's a mystery," he said.

Charged with three counts of first-degree murder, Caro has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Her trial started Aug. 22 and is expected to conclude in the next few weeks.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Cheryl Temple asked whether MacDonell's laboratory was monitored by any government agency.

As a "consulting lab," it doesn't have to be, MacDonell replied.

Temple also alluded briefly to MacDonell's involvement in the O.J. Simpson case.

MacDonell testified at both Simpson's criminal and civil trials.

Asserting that the blood on one of O.J. Simpson's socks was poured rather than splattered, he bolstered defense claims that police used the football legend's own blood to frame him.

Testimony is expected to continue today in Judge Donald D. Coleman's courtroom.

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