No signs of forced entry or struggle in murder victim's apartment: Windsor police
Warning: graphic content
A Forensic Identification Specialist testified Friday before a jury in the first-degree murder trial of Jitesh Bhogal.
Bhogal, 31, is charged with the death of Autumn Taggart, 31, who was killed on June 10, 2018 inside her Unviersity Avenue West apartment building.
Const. John Lasorda has been on the stand since Thursday afternoon to give evidence about his role in the murder investigation.
Lasorda told the court he was dispatched the crime scene around 9:50 p.m. on June 10 for a “primary” examination of the scene, focusing on the area where Taggart’s body was found.
“The minutiae would have been detailed later on (by other Forensic Identification Specialists).” Lasorda testified.
He told the jury he looked at the exterior of the apartment building at University and McKay Avenues, looking for any evidence of forced entry.
Finding none, Lasorda says he entered the building and went to Taggart’s unit with the coroner, Dr. Patrick Charron.
Lasorda says he first looked at the front door of Unit 7 and testified, “there was nothing that would indicate forced entry” such as a broken lock or doorknob or damage to the door itself.
The officer then walked through the apartment, taking images of all rooms in the two-bedroom apartment, he testified.
Lasorda told the jury the balcony door was locked when he arrived and was not damaged.
On the concrete floor of the balcony, images put into evidence, show chalk drawings.
Lasorda was asked to describe what Taggart’s bedroom looked like.
“The rest of the house was very clean in comparison,” Lasorda testified.
He told the jury there were many items “strewn about the room” including litter, empty water bottles, clothes, even strawberries which Lasorda says were rotten.
“Miss Taggart was covered by comforters but bruising was visible to her face area,” Lasorda testified.
He told the jury her feet were visible from under the covers and there was an open laptop and cellphone visible beside her.
On cross-examination, Lasorda confirmed for defence lawyer Peter Thorning there were no signs of a fight or struggle, like broken furniture, damaged walls or visible weapons in Taggart’s bedroom.
Lasorda told the jury they are trained to observe for signs of sexual assault, including fluids and injury to a victim’s body.
He testified there was no “overt” evidence to suggest a sexual assault had occurred to Taggart.
Lasorda testified he helped the coroner turn Taggart’s body over so the doctor could check her back for wounds.
Thorning asked if it was possible that action would have exposed Taggart’s side and breasts to DNA evidence on the bedsheet.
Lasorda testified it “wasn’t impossible” for DNA to be transferred from the bedsheet to her body.
Thorning went through the officers images, asking why tissues that appear to be blood-soaked, weren’t seized by Lasorda.
He told Thorning his role was to complete a primary investigation, to focus on Taggart’s body and surrounding area, and that he is not certain what other items were seized from the room.
Lasorda told the jury he seized eight items from Taggart’s bedroom: two comforters, a laptop, a cellphone, a pillow, a bathrobe, the bedsheet and all medications visible (at the direction of the coroner).
During their chance to re-examine Lasorda’s evidence, assistant crown attorney Ilana Mizel submitted two new “sensitive” photographs of Taggart’s body, after she was turned over.
Lasorda testified her chest would have been touching the bedsheet, but that her genital area would not have made contact with the bedsheet.
The coroner, Dr. Patrick Charron, testified late Friday.
“I turned her (Autumn Taggart) head to look at the different sides of her head,” Charron testified.
He told the jury he doesn’t remember, specifically, turning Taggart’s body over to look at her back but testified it would be part of his “normal routine” to do so.
On cross examination Charron told the court Taggart was covered with a single blanket which he lifted up off of her during his assessment and he told the court he placed the blanket on the floor.
Investigators with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) testified earlier this week.
CBSA Intelligence Officer David Klein testified Jitesh Bhogal crossed into Windsor at the tunnel around 2:15 a.m. on June 10, 2018, using a Nexus card.
Joseph Janos, an Investigator with CBP told the Jury Bhogal crossed back into Detroit around 7:15 a.m. on the same morning, again using his Nexus card for entry into the USA.
Neither officer had any evidence about what questions Bhogal was asked by officers either coming into Windsor or back into Detroit, nor how long he was waiting in line to cross the border.
Justice Renee Pomerance has excused the jury from attending on Monday, as the lawyers have some legal arguments to discuss.
The nature and content of those discussions are subject to a publication ban.
Testimony will continue in Superior Court on Tuesday, Oct. 26.