By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau
LEBANON, Ind. —
A Boone County jury now in its sixth week of hearing testimony in the third murder trial of former state trooper David Camm spent Wednesday listening to another forensic scientist offer exhaustive details on critical bloodstain patterns related to the crime scene.
Bart Epstein, who spent 30 years with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s crime lab before retiring to become a consultant, contradicted the prosecution’s experts when he told jurors that blood stains found on a T-shirt belonging to Camm weren’t blood spatter from a gunshot, but the likely result of Camm brushing up against his dead daughter’s fatal head wound.
Epstein, hired by the defense before Camm’s first trial in 2002, backed up Camm’s version of events: that he returned home on Sept. 28, 2000, after an evening playing basketball to find his wife, Kimberly, and their two children, Bradley, 7, and Jill, 5, shot to death in the garage of their Georgetown, Ind., home.
“Nothing that I found was inconsistent with what David Camm said he did after returning to find his family,” Epstein said.
Camm, who resigned from the state police four months before he was charged with killing his family, has twice been convicted of the crime and twice had the convictions overturned on appeal.
Jurors in this third murder trial have already heard a string of experts give varying opinions about how blood stains ended up on Camm’s clothing.
Prosecution experts have testified they believe the millimeter-sized dots of blood on Camm’s T-shirt are evidence that he shot his family, and that he was so close to his daughter when he pulled the trigger that blood from her head wound created back spatter found the shirt.
Epstein disagreed, saying the tiny blood stains on the shirt were the result of Camm brushing up against his daughter’s head wound as he reached over her body to get to his son to see if the little boy was still alive.
Epstein’s daylong testimony was accompanied by graphic crime scene photos, including one of Jill Camm’s small body slumped over in the backseat of her mother’s car with a visible gunshot wound to the head. Another photo showed a blood-soaked Kimberly Camm, laying next to the tennis shoes-clad feet of her son.
As defense attorney Stacey Uliana noted in court, the jury has seen the photos many times since the trial began in August. But the photos, displayed on multiple screens around the small courtroom, were clearly upsetting to Camm family members. Kimberly Camm’s mother dropped her head and shielded her eyes when the photos were shown; David Camm’s relatives, also in the courtroom, turned away when the images appeared.
The trial, expected to stretch into late October, has been slow-going in part because of the complicated forensic evidence that’s been introduced and the conflicting opinions of experts. Much of that forensic evidence has involved bloodstain pattern analysis.
A 2009 report by the National Academies of Science indicates why the case is so challenging: The report said “the opinions of bloodstain pattern analysts are more subjective than scientific” and warned that “uncertainties associated with bloodstain pattern analysis are enormous.”
Testimony and statements made during the first two trials related to Camm’s possible motivation for killing his family — that he was a serial adulterer and that his daughter had been sexually molested before her death — were thrown out by the appeals courts that overturned Camm’s earlier convictions.
The trial was moved to Boone County, north of Indianapolis, after concerns arose about publicity surrounding the murders and the subsequent trials.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI’s Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.