Murder suspect's family hired doctor to do autopsy (w/video)

Tri-City HeraldApril 23, 2014 

— A forensic pathologist testified Wednesday that evidence suggests only one person fired the three bullets that hit Joshua Snapp.

Dr. Daniel Selove said if he were to go with the defense theory that the gunfire came in rapid succession, then the “sequence (of wounds) makes perfect sense” in showing the shooter didn’t have much time to move between each trigger pull.

But the Everett doctor also acknowledged that under another scenario with sufficient time between the gunshots, the shooter could have moved locations or there could have been a second shooter in a different spot.

“The devil is in the details. How long are these pauses and periods in time?” Selove said.

Selove was hired by John C.I. Young’s family to do a second autopsy on Snapp’s body after the July 4 fatal shooting.

Young, 19, is on trial in Benton County Superior Court for first-degree murder with a firearm. The charge alleges premeditated intent.

Selove — called to the witness stand by defense lawyer John Crowley — told jurors that Snapp was standing when the first bullet hit him in the chest. The 17-year-old victim then was turning as the second bullet went into his head from his left ear to right ear, stopping just below the scalp, and finally he’d fallen to the ground as the last bullet also went in near the left ear but came out around the right eyebrow, Selove said.

Jurors seated in the back row stood to see Selove’s demonstration of the wound sequence with Crowley’s paralegal, while Judge Bruce Spanner, Prosecutor Andy Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long got out of their seats and moved next to the jury box.

However, Selove later told Miller it was just one scenario that the shots came quick like “boom, boom, boom,” and he had no idea if it was correct. “The direction (of the bullet) in the body can positively be known, but without the timing between the chest wound or head wounds I can’t narrow down where was a shooter standing,” Selove said. “… I have no independent knowledge of how long of a time interval was between shots.”

Young, in his videotaped statement played earlier this week for the jury, initially denied ever pulling the trigger on Snapp when he went into the desert that morning with Joshua H. Hunt to smoke marijuana.

Almost two hours into his interview, Young admitted he took the revolver from Hunt and fired the last shot at Snapp’s head because he “couldn’t watch him” keep twitching on the ground.

Hunt, 20, is serving more than 23 years in prison for the murder.

When Selove was on the stand, Miller pressed him to answer if Snapp could have survived the first wound to the chest, which went through the right lung.

“Another way to put it is, if Josh had been shot and somebody had stopped (the) additional shooting and called 911, Josh might be living today?” Miller asked.

“I agree,” Selove replied.

Crowley tried to show the jury there’s a possibility that the bullet fired by Young never hit Snapp.

He rested his case Wednesday, and later told the judge outside the jury’s presence that he made the decision that afternoon not to have Young testify.

The defense earlier in the day had called Richland police Detectives Dean Murstig and Damon Jansen back to the stand to talk about the five bullets recovered in the investigation, along with the position of Snapp’s body when it was found off Beardsley Road near Horn Rapids.

Two of the bullets were removed from Snapp’s body during his autopsy by Dr. Carl Wigren, and three others were discovered in the sand. Of those found at the scene, one bullet went through Snapp’s head while the other two — one in the dirt also near his head and the other a distance away near where Hunt’s car was parked — did not pass through anything before hitting the ground.

Crowley enlarged several photos of the crime scene and Snapp’s body onto poster boards.

Graphic pictures usually are only shown to jurors, but Crowley at one point turned a close-up photo of Snapp so it faced the audience which caused the teen’s family to gasp and some left the courtroom sobbing.

A short time later, the jury was taken out of the courtroom after Murstig found a bullet on the courtroom floor near the witness stand. Murstig was stepping down from the witness stand when he stopped and told the judge: “May I talk to you, your honor? There’s something on the ground here that we need to address.”

Miller suggested the bullet may have fallen out of an evidence envelope while Crowley was holding it.

Miller noted that the envelopes, each holding one bullet, had been opened during the case so the evidence could be shown to the jury.

Crowley confirmed that one of the five envelopes was empty.

He told the judge the bullet either dropped to the floor as he was holding the bags or when the five bags fell from the witness stand.

Spanner had to make a record of what happened Wednesday to be included with Young’s official case file. After that was done, the judge had Murstig pick up the bullet and return it to the envelope before the jury returned for more testimony.

Closing statements are expected today at the Benton County Justice Center.

Jurors will be able to consider second-degree murder during deliberations, but the judge denied a defense request to also include the choices of first- and second-degree manslaughter.

Spanner said the facts heard in trial don’t support findings of only reckless or negligent behavior.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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