Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the book: Murder by Deception

The Experts Speak

Pathologist Travis Hindman testified for the prosecution about the autopsies he had performed on both victims. He had found small amounts of blood on Harrington's right palm and index finger, and some on his left hand. He also described the bullet wounds, indicating that they contradicted the story that Winger had told. There had been no blood on a ring and watch that Harrington wore, indicating he could not have bludgeoned Donnah with a hammer.

Blueprint of Winger house
Blueprint of Winger house

Tom Bevel then testified that the blood spatter patterns on the walls, ceiling, and clothing of all participants in the incident failed to support the story that Mark Winger told. He had been contacted by Springfield police in 1999 after giving a seminar on blood spatter. He stated that the person who had killed Donnah had knelt perpendicular to her and moved his arm in a north-south direction, as evidenced by spatter on the wall south of her head. She was beaten a minimum of three times and her blood would have spattered the hand and clothing of whoever hit her. Winger had the right kind of spatters on his shirt. Bevel also stated that Harrington had been shot near the refrigerator, not in the foyer, and had been rolled onto his back after the first shot before being shot again. However, Bevel admitted, when pressed, that blood spatter pattern analysis is open to interpretation.

Winger refrigerator
Winger refrigerator

In fact, Terry Laber, a forensic scientist from St. Paul, Minn., disputed Bevel's findings and stated that the blood evidence was consistent with the story Winger had told. He did not think the hammer was swung in a north-south direction, and stated that hammer impact causes blood to "go high," not against a wall. The pools of blood around Harrington could have resulted from several different scenarios, he said, not necessarily the one that Bevel described. He had been unable to review the stains on Winger's shirt, as that piece had been cut out. He responded to a question as to why Harrington's hands had so little blood on them by suggesting they might have been cleaned off.

Jury members would later say that these two experts had canceled each other out, and this testimony had not been instrumental in their deliberations. They felt the same about the psychiatrists who described Harrington. It was the three photos that, in the end, appeared to have the most impact on the verdict. But this would not be the only jury asked to judge Mark Winger.

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