VALLEJO — A forensic anthropologist wrapped up his second day on the witness stand Wednesday in the jury trial for a Fairfield man who faces a second-degree murder charge for the 1996 death of his girlfriend.
Lonnie J. Kerley is accused of killing Danna Dever, who lived with Kerley and their 9-year-old daughter at their home in Cordelia. He reported Dever missing to Fairfield police in August 1996, saying she had walked out the door six weeks earlier and had not returned.
Dever’s badly decomposed, naked body was discovered in the summer of 1996 by farm workers in a ditch south of Dixon, but was not identified by authorities until 2007.
Earlier this year, Dr. Turhon Murad told investigators that further examination of Dever’s body might help determine a cause of death. A court order to exhume Dever’s body was obtained and her body was taken to a laboratory at California State University, Chico.
Murad testified that Dever’s remains were “essentially mummified” and weighed only about 25 to 30 pounds.
As Murad testified, jurors could scrutinize several of the bones from Dever’s remains that prosecutors had put on display in the middle of the courtroom. At the end of the day, Judge Allan P. Carter gave jurors a few moments to step out of the jury box and take a close look at the remains.
Murad testified that Dever’s hyoid bone in her throat had been broken, suggesting she had been strangled. He also said he had discovered broken ribs, leading him to conclude that Dever had suffered from a severe and perhaps fatal beating.
“I think she was stomped,” Murad told jurors of the injuries he believed occurred at the time of Dever’s death.
Jurors have already heard extensive testimony from neighbors, Dever’s friends and relatives, and police detailing the history of violence and domestic abuse Kerley inflicted on Dever.
Prosecutors Krishna Abrams and Julie Underwood are scheduled to continue presenting their case against Kerley when the trial resumes Tuesday.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.