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Coroner takes stand in Williams murder trial

Cause of death: Asphyxiation due to suffocation, strangulation

CTY-williams26p

Lucas County Forensic Pathologist Maneesha Pandy was the final state witness during the aggravated murder trial of Samuel Williams, who faces the death penalty if convicted. The 26th witness in the case, Dr. Pandey told a jury of nine women and three men on Wednesday that both Ms. Straub and Clarke died of asphyxiation due to suffocation and strangulation caused by a bag over their faces and tape wrapped tightly around their necks.

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Black duct tape wrapped around the necks of Lisa Straub and Johnny Clarke to hold plastic bags in place was so tight it cut off blood supply to their heads, and eventually their air, a deputy Lucas County coroner testified in common pleas court today.

Maneesha Pandey was the final state witness during the aggravated murder trial of Samuel Williams, who faces the death penalty if convicted. The 26th witness in the case, Dr. Pandey told a jury of nine women and three men that both Ms. Straub and Clarke died of asphyxiation due to suffocation and strangulation caused by a bag over their faces and tape wrapped tightly around their necks.

Williams, 24, and co-defendant Cameo Pettaway, 23, are both charged with two counts of aggravated murder and kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary in the Jan. 30, 2011 deaths of Ms. Straub, 20, and Clarke, 21.

The two were found inside the home of Ms. Straub’s parents with their hands bound behind their backs and plastic bags secured tightly around their necks. Clarke’s ankles also were bound with duct tape.

Jurors in Williams’ case are expected to hear closing arguments Thursday, then proceed to deliberations. Dr. Pandey is expected to testify today during the trial of Mr. Pettaway, whose case is being heard by a jury of nine women and three men in a different courtroom.

During the third day of testimony at both trials, investigators and analysts spoke of the evidence collected at the Longacre Lane home in Springfield Township where the bodies were found.

Of all the evidence collected, it was a discarded cigarette butt — and only that cigarette butt — that contained the DNA of both Williams and Mr. Pettaway, a DNA analyst testified in both courtrooms.

Cassandra Agosti, laboratory supervisor for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Bowling Green lab, testified that her analysis of a Newport cigarette butt found inside the Straubs’ home, near a door leading to the garage, contained a mixture of the two defendants’ DNA. She also testified that the majority of DNA detected on other evidence from the scene belonged to either Ms. Straub or Clarke.

Mrs. Agosti said DNA was detected on some of the duct tape, parts of the victims’ cell phones, and other items collected at the crime scene, but it did not match any of the nearly 90 genetic profiles that were submitted for comparison from suspects, witnesses, and others associated with the case.

In particular, defense attorneys pointed out that the DNA of “unknown female number one” was found on the tape and inside the pockets of Clarke’s sweatpants and sweatshirt.

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