Medical examiner: Turner was shot in the back

Apr. 25, 2013 @ 09:20 PM

A former medical examiner testified Thursday that Darrell Turner, an 18-year-old high school football player from Pennsylvania, was killed by a bullet that entered his back and pierced his heart.

Jonathan Privette, now an assistant clinical professor at East Carolina University, performed the examination and autopsy on Turner and described three wounds he found on the teenager's body.

Privette was testifying on the third day of evidence presentation in the trial of Gabriel James Gamez, 24. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Turner, who with his teammates was on a trip to Florida when he was killed.

The all-star team from the Pittsburgh area had stopped for the night in Durham on June 23, 2011. Seven members had just eaten dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the Patterson Place shopping center near the I-40/U.S. 15-501 interchange when they encountered Gamez.

The team members testified earlier in the trial they were walking back to their hotel, talking and laughing, when they passed an individual walking in the opposite direction in front of the AT&T store. After they passed, they heard him asking loudly what someone had thrown at him. A couple players testified he kept asking why they were staring at him.

The players testified Turner, who was closest to Gamez, began to argue with him as Gamez cursed at them.

The players testified Gamez pulled his shirt up and they saw a gun in his waistband, so they turned and ran in the direction they had originally been walking. After taking only a step or two, they said they heard gunshots, and they kept running.

But Turner, they testified, was on the ground in front of the AT&T store.

Privette testified he performed the autopsy on Turner the next day. He found one entrance wound in Turner’s back, and one in the back of his lower leg. There was an exit wound on the front of his leg and a grazing wound on his arm.

The bullet that entered Turner's back fractured a vertebra, fractured a rib, hit his right lung and went into his heart. He found the bullet in Turner's heart, he said.

The bullet that entered the back of Turner's lower left leg  fractured the fibula and exited through the front of his lower left leg, Privette said.

The jurors looked at photographs of the wounds.

Gamez's attorney, Rebecca Wiggins, had no questions for Privette.

Also on the stand Thursday was Durham Police Officer Daniel Strandh, who used a system, similar to what surveyor might use, to measure the distance between pieces of evidence found in front of the AT&T store, in a walkway and in the parking lot next to the store.

Previously a crime scene analyst showed photographs of evidence she found at the scene, including three bullet cartridges, athletic sandals, cell phones and blood on a walkway. In all she found nine athletic sandals, which presumably fell off the players' feet as they ran away.

Strandh testified it was 58.3 feet between a cartridge on the cement area in front of the AT&T store and an Old Navy sandal near a cell phone and other evidence found on a walkway.

During the afternoon, Sgt. B. Bishop of the Durham Police Department,  a member of a unit similar to a SWAT team, testified that he and the team went to the SpringHill Suites Marriott, at the other end of the parking lot from the AT&T store, and got the suspect to voluntarily come out of room 323.

A crime scene specialist showed videotapes and photographs of what she found in the hotel room.

The videotape showed an open gun case with a black pistol with a magazine in it on a bedside table. Another magazine was lying on the case. She also showed a photograph of an open suitcase on the bed. About 10 cartridges were on the inside lid of the open suitcase.

She said an officer cleared the gun and found a bullet in the chamber. The magazine in it was fully loaded.

Another photograph showed an open Bible on the nightstand between two double beds.

Gamez is charged with first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and five counts of attempted murder.

The trial is scheduled to resume this morning., but Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner told the jurors court will end for the day at 1 p.m.

One football player in the group who testified earlier in the trial, Robert Foster, is a senior at Central Valley High School in Monaca, Pa. He is ranked as one of the top high school receivers in the country and has committed to play at the University of Alabama.