Category: Armstrong County Court House

Forensic Experts Testify in Crissman Murder Trial

by Jonathan Weaver

A trio of forensic experts detailed the alleged ways Robert Crissman killed Tammy Long July 30 and the items where their DNA and fingerprint evidence was found.

World-renowned Forensic Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht first took the stand about 10AM yesterday morning in the Armstrong County Courthouse to explain what he found during Long’s autopsy at Carlow University in Pittsburgh Friday, July 31.

Wecht collected hair samples and noted both internal and external injuries during his review, noting Long suffered more than a half-dozen injuries including bruises, lacerations and an indent around her neck where Crissman allegedly tied a shoelace.

“She died due to asphyxiation due to strangulation,” Wecht testified. “(The shoe string) was tied tightly around her neck.”

While a blunt force trauma to Long’s head did not cause Long’s death and might not have caused her to lose consciousness, Wecht testified that the profuse amount of blood loss led to her brain losing oxygen. Investigators allege that a toilet tank lid caused the irregular, jagged laceration.

In his medical opinion, Long died between 6:30AM and 8:30AM the morning Crissman arrived at Long and Terry Slagle’s Rayburn Township house.

Forensic Scientist and Serologist Sarah Kinneer analyzed 10 pieces of evidence at the accredited Pennsylvania State Police regional crime lab in Greensburg – including the toilet tank lid, three-inch shoe string and a white Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt Crissman was allegedly wearing).

Forensic experts testified in Robert Crissman’s murder trial yesterday regarding the laboratory procedures they undertook to determine DNA on a white T-shirt found by police investigators. Blood stains were tested and a square was also cut from the back of the collar to determine DNA. It was matched to the accused.

Kinneer found blood spatter on the lower front of the t-shirt and also cut out a square from the t-shirts neckline to determine who wore the t-shirt. The t-shirt was found under a bed at Long’s residence

The shoe string was also stained in what was presumed to be Long’s blood.

“There was blood all over the shoe string,” Kinneer testified.

The evidence was then forwarded to Forensic Scientist Timothy Gavel, an expert in DNA analysis that also works at the State police crime lab in Greensburg.

Gavel testified evidence collected on a toilet tank lid, blue bed sheet and blood stains all matched Tammy Long.

The T-shirt sample Kinneer cut also matched to Crissman.

In his report filed December 18, 2015, Gavel testified all DNA found traced to Long and Crissman could not have been from more than a nonillion other individuals. Nonillion has 30 zeros, while Earth’s population in billions has nine zeros.

Some touch DNA evidence could not be compared to other individuals screened – such as Slagle or Crissman’s Armstrong County Jail cellmate on the morning of his escape.

Crime lab officials testified no latent finger prints could come from the toilet tank lid.

State Police Trooper Roger Hess, stationed at Troop D headquarters in Butler, took photographs of several more items both at the crime scenes and at the police barracks. He was identifying them all – such as Crissman’s wallet and fishing license, a hairbrush and shaving cream bag and a silver purse found on Long’s bed – before the end of testimony yesterday.

Dozens of items have been entered into evidence by Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi and Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Charlton and were tagged by Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts Brenda George. Those items include black high-top tennis shoes, a Magnum rifle and more than a dozen photographs.

Although evidence was taken by police investigators from the home, nothing was submitted from a truck Crissman allegedly stole or Slagle’s gun safe where a 22-inch Magnum rifle was allegedly taken.

Wecht was requested by Armstrong County Coroner Brian Myers and was accompanied by Deputy Coroner Robert Bower and two Pennsylvania State Police troopers.

Lead Investigator Trooper Terry Geibel, of the Pennsylvania State Police, Kittanning barracks, assisted Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi during Day Two of Crissman’s jury trial.

While more testimony is to be heard starting this morning, County President Judge Kenneth Valasek told the dozen jurors testimony might conclude today and that Judge Valasek might ask them to convene to consider Crissman’s felony charges this evening.