Medical examiner testifies in Bernstein’s murder

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The government's chief medical examiner, Dr. Aurelio Espinola retired in January. (PNC file photo)

Medical Examiner testifies that Shelly Bernstein didn’t die from an overdose, a fall or a gunshot, her death was the result of blunt force trauma.

Guam – Chief Medical Examiner Doctor Aurelio Espinola was called as the Expert witness, testifying on Wednesday in the second trial of accused murder suspect Allan Agababa.

On August 13, 2013, Shelly Bernstein’s body was allegedly found lying in bed by her eldest son Allan Agababa. But there are several theories involving how the 55-year old died. The first theory, speculates that a possible cause of her death was a drug overdose as three Fentanyl patches were discovered on her arms, while many others were strewn across her bed.

Medical Examiner Doctor Aurelio Espinola testified that Fentanyl patches are more potent that morphine and is used for pain management. Side effects include a lower heart rate and depressed respiration.

But according to Espinola, the presence of three patches on Bernstein, indicates that the effect of the patches was less, noting that Bernstein’s medical history showed that she had been suffering from pain for a long time.

The second theory, was that Bernstein may have fallen and hit her head but this theory was quickly debunked by the medical examiner.

“I looked around and there was no evidence that she fell,” testified Espinola.

Espinola says that if Bernstein had fallen and bumped her head on something like an end table, the shape of the injury would match what she hit. He further added, that there was nothing in the apartment that matched the shape of Bernstein’s injury.

The third theory was that the injury to Bernstein’s head was the result of a gunshot. This theory as well was quickly ruled out by Espinola.

While the medical examiner agreed that the injury may appear to look like a gunshot wound, he is certain that it was not.

“Number one, I did not find any bullet. Number two, I did not find any markings that tells me it’s a gunshot,” said Espinola.

The one certainty is that Bernstein’s death was the result of blunt force trauma to her head. According to Espinola, while Bernstein was struck on the right side of her head it was with such force that it caused a contrecoup injury. Meaning not only did she have a laceration with a depressed fracture above her right eyebrow and contusions on both her eyelids, but also a communitive fracture which continued to the back of the left side of her neck, where he found a small laceration and hemorrhaging under the scalp.

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.