Jury Could Deliberate Murder Charge Today

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Forensic evidence was the point of contention Tuesday on the second day of Devon Wayne Fuller’s murder trial.

Prosecutors called their final witnesses Tuesday, with Fuller’s defense attorneys expected to begin calling their own witnesses this morning. Testimony is expected to end today, and the jury would then deliberate until they reach a verdict.

Fuller, 20, of 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire, faces two counts of aggravated murder committed in the course of rape and aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of burglary, and two counts of trespassing for the alleged June 30, 2012 murder of Lydia Ashworth, 92, of Bellaire. His co-defendant is Brandon Michael Phelps of 1281 Birch St., Bellaire.

With forensic evidence being the focal point Tuesday, both prosecution and defense questioned forensic experts and investigators regarding procedure and the possibility of evidence contamination.

Andrew Sawin, forensic biologist with BCI, described his analysis of evidence collected from the crime scene. He said no semen was found at the scene, but a chemical found in blood, saliva and other fluids, was discovered.

Fuller’s attorney Kirk McVey questioned Sawin, asking if he could determine how many times an evidence container had been opened and re-sealed and by who before it had come into his custody. Representatives from both sides also discussed the methods by which evidence could be collected, with McVey stating the vacuum collection method used at the scene cannot determine exactly where evidence was found on a crime scene.

Also testifying Tuesday was Lynda Evelith, a forensic scientist in the bureau’s DNA division. She described the process of comparing DNA samples taken from collected evidence to samples taken from suspects.

Evelith said 31 evidence samples were tested for DNA and were compared with DNA from Fuller and three other suspects. While much of the material and prints could not yield a complete match, a hair at the scene was a match for Fuller.

She said Fuller could not be determined as a source of DNA taken from the bedroom, lockbox or interior latch of the kitchen door in Ashworth’s home. Other hairs were obtained at the scene, but a profile could not be established. However, she said the chances of the DNA coming from someone other than Fuller was minuscule.

Jeff Lee, chief forensic pathologist and assistant deputy coroner at Licking County, also testified Tuesday, describing the July 2 autopsy he performed. He described Ashworth’s injuries, stating they corresponded to severe beating and death by strangulation. He said other injuries gave the appearance of sexual assault.

McVey asked whether some injuries might have been sustained in some other way, such as by a fall. He also inquired to what extent investigators’ belief that a rape had occurred might have influenced their procedure and assumptions. Lee said the injuries were more consistent with an attack than with any accident.