ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County medical examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia, "Dr. G" took the stand Friday afternoon in the murder trial of former Orange County school teacher Delores Laster, who's accused of killing her husband in 1988.
Laster was arrested in 2009 after her children came forward and said they helped her cover up their father's death.
Garavaglia was limited on what she could testify about because she was not the original autopsy medical examiner but she gave an explanation for a common observation throughout the trial so far--the lack of blood at the scene. She said a person doesn't immediately die from a small caliber wound and that a wound in the back of the head, with the victim slumped forward, would not bleed much.
"If you have a gunshot wound in the back of the head, and you're face down all that blood will be internal," she said. "It won't necessarily come out."
Prosecutors said if someone wouldn't immediately die from a small caliber wound, that would support the testimony jurors will hear next week from Delores Laster's adult son. He said his dad was still alive, even talking, as he helped his mother drag the body from the bedroom to the garage.
Garavaglia said her best estimation on time of death is about 24 hours to 48 hours before authorities arrived. Laster says she left the house about 24 hours before returning and finding the body, which prosecutors say makes it unlikely that Clarence Laster died only hours before she returned home.
Meanwhile, FDLE firearms expert Greg Scala says a towel found in Laster's bedroom contained gunshot residue, with a hole consistent with the towel being used to cover gun. Prosecutors said they believe Laster used the towel to muffle the sound of the weapon.
The towel had evidence of a second discharge of the gun, but only one bullet was recovered from the body.
Scala said ballistics tests comparing bullet to a revolver at Laster's parents' home in Gainesville was inconclusive. However Scala said all chambers of that gun contained dust and lint, suggesting it had not been fired for a while.
Retired crime scene technician Arthur McGraw, who collected scene evidence, took the stand Friday morning. He repeated the same thing the jury has heard throughout the trial so far--despite Clarence Laster being shot in the head, possibly because of the nature of the wound, there was not much blood.
McGraw said there was only a little bit of blood on the floor of the garage where Delores Laster said she found her husband.
McGraw said no one knew Clarence Laster had been shot in the head until the medical examiner conducted an autopsy the following day.
Once the investigators knew it was murder, they began collecting evidence from the couple's Pine Hills home, including a towel they later determined contained gunshot residue.
Detectives said by that point, they believed Delores Laster shot her husband in bed and then with the help of her two children, dragged his body into the garage.
McGraw told jurors he took the couple's bedroom nightstand, which had unusual stains on it.
21 years later, the FDLE crime lab tested the stains and although one tested positive for possible blood, because of the age and the evidence's condition, they were unable to confirm the stain was blood.
Prosecutors admitted the evidence that was collected at the crime scene was weak and say that's why it took them more than 20 years to arrest Delores Laster. The defense said there's no evidence pointing to Laster because investigators were unable to find confirmed blood in the home.
It's unclear if the jury will hear from Laster's daughter, Kristi.
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