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Camm case gets technical with ‘expert’ testimony

Jurors in the David R. Camm murder trial learned about high velocity impact spatter (HVIS) as week one of the trial ended Friday, but whether they consider the witness an expert is anybody’s guess.
Robert Stites, a professor at Portland State University in Oregon who specializes in crime scene reconstruction, spent all day Friday on the stand during the trial of Camm, 37, the former Indiana State Police trooper who’s charged with killing his wife and two children in September of 2000 at their rural Georgetown home.
Using lay terms, Stites explained the difference between blood spatters — both back and forward — and blood transfer. “Back spatter” only travels up to four feet from the victim, he said.
Stites testified that when he viewed the T-shirt Camm was wearing the night of the murders, he “immediately noticed” high-velocity impact spatter on the shirt. “It was very obvious,” Stites said.
Not all the spots on the T-shirt were tested, because Stites said he knew DNA testing would have to be done on the spots.
During cross-examination, Stites told Camm’s attorney, Michael McDaniel of Lanesville, that his undergraduate degree is in economics, and he does not have a master’s degree although he is pursuing his doctorate. (In Oregon, doctoral students do not have to have a master’s degree.)
With regard to evidence collection, Stites said he noticed what appeared to be “a reddish stain,” possibly blood, on the shower curtain in the hallway bathroom of the Camm home. Stites asked that the shower curtain be preserved and tested, but he did not know if that occurred.
Stites’ testimony that he didn’t know if certain other items were collected as evidence, as he had requested, seems to support Camm’s claims that police did not do a good job of investigating the crime, as jurors heard in court on Thursday.
Thursday afternoon, Camm’s aunt, Phyllis Rhodes, a reporter with Green Banner Publications in Pekin, testified that she had sent questions to her nephew about the events leading up to the murder and things that happened afterward. Camm had sent her answers to some of those questions.
“The police arrested me after three days and used high-velocity blood misting as their primary evidence,” Camm wrote. “Now they’re calling it spatter instead of misting. There is a big difference between the two.”
Camm reiterated what he had told police, that he “never went into any other rooms in the house” other than the kitchen, where he called for help and later answered a call from his aunt.
“Those accusations (that he went into other rooms, such as the laundry room) by the police are lies,” he wrote.
“I was never treated at anytime by the police as a victim, but as a suspect,” Camm replied to one question. “I suppose those know-it-all egomaniacs think they have been given some special awareness to see my pain or know what shock and horror is like. They expected me to know every little detail of every second with no regard for what loss I had just gone through.”
Last Wednesday, the jurors, who are from Johnson County, saw the videotape of Camm’s interview conducted by two ISP detectives in the early morning hours after the murders. Camm went over his family’s daily routine and events of the day of the murders.
“It just doesn’t make any sense, you know, unless somebody was just, you know, after my wife, gonna rape her, or, you know, why in the hell they had to kill my kids, you know, I can’t figure that out,” Camm said at one point during the interview.
Lt. James L. Biddle Jr., who’s been with the ISP Bureau of Criminal Investigations about 15 years, took the stand last Wednesday. He talked with Camm two days after the murders, when Camm went to get clothes for his wife and children’s funeral.
Biddle said Camm seemed “agitated” and expressed his “displeasure at people standing around and doing nothing.”
Jurors later heard a taped phone conversation where Camm called the ISP post and apologized to Biddle for his behavior.
“I’m going to be cleared,” Camm told Biddle. “Anything you can keep me up to date on, would you let me know, please? It’s like a roller coaster, Jimmy.”
Near the end of the 20-minute conversation, Camm asked Biddle to “let everybody know I appreciate them ‘ Also, let them know I’m counting on them, counting on them pretty heavy.”
Camm also asked if there was something in the house he didn’t know about. Under cross-examination, Biddle said he “believed Camm was trying to find out what was going on in the house.”
During the afternoon session last Wednesday, jurors heard another phone conversation Camm had with the ISP post, this one with Det. Sam Sarkisian several hours before his arrest on Oct. 1. Camm said nobody would talk to him about the case.
“Everybody’s workin’ real hard, Dave,” Sarkisian replied, adding that they were trying to get “all our ducks in a row ‘ We’re not letting any stone unturned, man. We got your interest and kids’ interest and your wife’s interest ‘ it’s a difficult case ‘ just from an emotional standpoint ‘ I know your family.”
Sarkisian told Camm several times, “We’re gonna solve” the case.
Jurors got the first hint of Camm’s alleged infidelities when Camm told detectives in a taped interview hours before his arrest on Oct. 1 that he had oral sex during the 1999 Lanesville Heritage Weekend with a former state trooper’s wife. Camm and his wife were separated for several months about five years ago, but reconciled.
In response to the questions posed by his aunt, Camm told her that he had been unfaithful to his wife, but “I’ve made no secret of that. Don’t let the police make you think they have, through some intensive investigation, found things from my past that were hidden deep dark secrets.
“Almost all of the information that they have concerning any incidents they have, I told them in the beginning in my best attempt to try and locate any and all persons I believe could be remotely considered suspects in the killing of my family,” he continued. “These incidents occurred while I was with the state police, and only one was an affair, that occurred six years ago, and Kim and I had long since moved beyond it.
“Unfaithfulness is not uncommon among police officers,” Camm wrote, “and I could not shake the reputation I carried after that incident … ”
Court was in recess Monday because of the Martin Luther King holiday. Testimony was to resume yesterday and is expected to continue through mid-February.