EBENSBURG – A forensic pathologist told a Cambria County jury Wednesday afternoon that a fracture to the base of Angela Lunn’s skull would have impacted her brain stem and killed her instantly.
Dr. Kevin Whaley, a forensic pathologist with ForensicDX in Windber, reviewed the autopsy performed on Lunn, 32, in November 2017 and testified on his findings from evaluating those records.
Whaley said Lunn experienced multiple skull fractures and broken ribs that punctured one of her lungs and ruptured her spleen. Both of those latter injuries could be lethal by themselves, Whaley added.
The jury of seven men and five women, along with two female alternates, have heard from 14 witnesses over the last two days.
Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees also testified Wednesday afternoon, telling jurors the cause of Lunn’s death was multiple blunt force trauma injuries indicative of assault. Lees also ruled Lunn’s death a homicide.
Larry Benefield Fason, 57, has been charged with criminal homicide in Lunn’s death.
Fason is accused of assaulting Lunn, disposing of evidence related to that assault in a trash bin across Bell Alley, dragging Lunn’s body down the back stairs of his apartment building and disposing of her body in a nearby trash shelter.
In some previous interviews with police, Fason alleged Lunn arrived to his apartment in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2017, and “was beat up.”
His attorney, Charles Hoebler, of Pittsburgh, questioned Whaley about whether someone with skull fractures could continue to function or speak.
Whaley explained that the injury Lunn experienced would cause “instantaneous loss of consciousness.”
Hoebler also asked Whaley whether Cambria County or the Cambria County District Attorney’s Office had paid him to testify in the case.
Whaley explained that he’s not paid anything outside of his base salary from ForensicDX to testify on Wednesday and that he could have been asked to testify by prosecutors or defense attorneys, but his findings would remain the same after his review of Lunn’s case.
Whaley also told Hoebler he found the question offensive because it implied that he was paid to present the findings that favored prosecutors’ arguments.
“My job is to tell you what Angela would tell you if she could,” Whaley said. “If it helps them, that’s great. If it helps you, that’s great.”
On Wednesday morning, the lead detective on Fason’s case told jurors about three interviews he conducted with Fason.
Johnstown police Detective Brad Christ said during the first interview, Fason said Lunn arrived at his Messenger Street apartment in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2017, and exhibited injuries.
In the first interview, Christ said Fason told him he tried to help Lunn and eventually walked her out the back door.
Christ said he interviewed Fason a second time less than two hours later, when Fason said Lunn attacked him when she entered his apartment that morning, threw items around his apartment, and he eventually pushed her before she fell and hit her head on a baseboard.
Christ said Fason also reported in the second interview that he walked Lunn down the back steps of his apartment building, where he said she collapsed on the last step and he assisted her to the trash shelter next to the stairs.
In a third interview, Christ testified that he informed Fason about the extent of Lunn’s injuries, which would have kept her from walking to his apartment or leaving on her own power.
Christ said Fason responded that he “snapped the (expletive) out.”
Also during the third interview, Christ said Fason told him he had a fight with Lunn when he would not give her money, but consistently said Lunn collapsed on the back stairs of his apartment building and was still able to speak to him when he placed her in the nearby trash shelter.
Hoebler pointed out that in transcripts from all three interviews, Fason told Christ once that Lunn had arrived at his front door, but Christ testified that Fason had been “adamant” about that fact.
Trooper Richard Nuttall, of the Pennsylvania State Police forensic services unit, testified to photographs he took at the alleged crime scene and Fason’s apartment after a search warrant was executed on Nov. 5, 2017.
Nuttall pointed to several areas where he lifted blood samples from hallway walls, the bedroom carpet, the living room carpet, the bathroom tub and light switch and the kitchen sink in Fason’s apartment, along with the back stairs of the apartment building.
Pam Vyhonsky, the sexual assault nurse examiner who performed a forensic examination of Fason’s body following the execution of a search warrant on the same date, also testified to abrasions on Fason’s knees, blood on his toes and soles of his feet.
Vyhonsky said at the beginning of that exam, she asked Fason why he was there and he allegedly told her, “They say I murdered somebody.”
Vyhonsky also testified that she asked where the blood on Fason’s feet came from, and she said he told her it was from his “lady friend.” According to Vyhonsky, Fason did not respond when she asked why his “lady friend’s” blood was on him.
Hoebler and Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan gave opening arguments Tuesday morning before the jury.
On Tuesday morning, jurors spent approximately 30 minutes at Fason’s former Hornerstown apartment at 91 Messenger St.
Video surveillance shown by police who testified Tuesday showed a person they say is Lunn walking toward the front entrance of Fason’s apartment building on Messenger Street around 4:15 a.m. Nov. 5, 2017.
Surveillance video from the Elks Flood City Lodge depicts what police say is Fason taking bags of garbage to the trash area around 5:30 a.m. Nov. 5, 2017.
Johnstown police Detective Sgt. Cory Adams said those bags also included evidence related to Lunn’s death, including clumps of her hair, ripped underwear and blood-soaked rags.
At around 6:30 a.m. the same morning, the video shows what police say is Fason dragging Lunn’s body down the stairs out the back of his apartment into the alley and into the trash shelter located there.
Lunn was found around 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5, 2017, by neighbor Layton Brandon III, who was the first witness called by prosecutors Tuesday.
Brandon said he eventually ran to the apartment of Olympia Alston, who lives on the first floor of the same apartment building on Messenger Street, and instructed her to call 911.
During opening arguments, Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan detailed the numerous injuries Lunn experienced, which included broken bones, indications of sexual assault, numerous lacerations and bruises, calling it “a brutal beating from head to toe, front to back.”
Callihan also mentioned that Lunn was 4 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed 97 pounds.
“In this petite size, she had no chance in defending herself,” she said. “Not against this defendant.”
Hoebler said during his opening arguments that Lunn’s injuries were from at least 72 hours prior and nothing in Fason’s apartment would have inflicted the injuries she experienced.
Fason also did not have injuries consistent with the attack prosecutors accuse him of committing, Hoebler argued.
While Christ’s testimony pointed out inconsistencies between each of Fason’s interviews with police, Hoebler noted the details Fason consistently stated, including his claim that Lunn showed up with her injuries and that he didn’t want to hurt her and had no reason to do so.
Callihan and assistant district attorneys Kevin Persio and Erin Dominick are seeking a first-degree murder conviction in the case.
They did, however, notify President Judge Norman Krumenacker III last year that they would not seek the death penalty.
Testimony will continue Thursday morning. The trial is scheduled to last the remainder of the week.
Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.