Agababa Trial: Bone fragments, blood smears were never tested

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GPD Crime Scene Investigator says evidence of suspected pry marks were found on Bernstein’s door, which supports Agababa’s claim of an alleged robbery.

Guam – Day 9 in the trial of accused murderer Allan Agababa continued with the cross examination of the government’s last witness GPD Officer Tainatongo.

Officer Tainatongo was the Crime Scene Investigator assigned to documenting the scene through photographs the night of Shelly Bernstein’s death, he also assisted in executing a search warrant of Bernstein’s vehicle. He had been a CSI detective for about 9 years and processed an estimated 800 crime scenes before August 13, 2013.

While, Tainatongo testified that nothing was found in Bernstein’s car, he did testify to finding evidence at the home. According to his testimony, he documented what he believed to be suspected bone fragments, suspected blood smears, and suspected pry marks at the Bernstein home. Tainatongo identified four areas where possible skull fragments were found.

“Yes it would but the others that were identified as possible skull fragments are possibly at the same location, the second one is on top of a bed sheet,” recalled the officer.

But the People argued that Officer Tainatongo’s testimony is equivalent to that of a lay person, stating that he is not an expert with medical knowledge like Medical Examiner Doctor Aurelio Espinola. In Espinola’s testimony he determined that the matter found was not skull fragments however, no tests were conducted to determine exactly what biological material was photographed by Tainatongo. The people further noted that Tainatango had testified that although he indicated that the subject of the photos were possible bone fragments, that description would change based on Espinola’s determination.

Tainatango also testified about photographs he took that he believed to be blood smears found on a wall in the home and on the wall outside of the home. Van de Veld contended that perhaps the Chief Medical Examiner simply missed the possible blood smears. In fact Tainatongo’s testimony was in direct conflict with testimony provided when Espinola took the stand. During Espinola’s testimony, he stated that no blood was found in the home except for on the bed where Bernstein was found. But like the possible bone fragments, no testing of the matter was conducted.

Chief Prosecutor Jeremiah Luther once again argued that the officer lacked the medical knowledge to make the determination. Stating that the suspected blood smears could be ketchup.

Finally, Tainatongo, testified about suspected pry marks found at the entrance of the Bernstein home. Van de veld contended that the suspected pry marks are evidence supporting his client’s claim that someone broke into the home.

Tainatongo testified, “collectively with detectives as well as crime scene investigators there, we came to the common that it was possibly pry markings…pry markings of the door and the striped plate. Van de Veld: For purposes of entry? Officer: that’s correct.”

You may recall testimony from two other GPD officer’s, who stated that there was no evidence of forced entry, revealing another conflict in testimonies. With this Van de Veld turned his attention to Tainatango’s experience in dealing with crime scenes, confirming that Tainatongo was experienced with crime scenes which involve burglary.

 

SOURCEJolene Toves
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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.