One of the knife wounds that killed a Medford woman who was later found mutilated and on fire in Connecticut pierced her skin next to her belly button, yet sliced into the left side of her liver, a medical examiner testified Friday.
Dr. Harold Carver, the recently retired Connecticut chief medical examiner, struggled during cross-examination to explain how that could happen to Rebecca Koster, 24.
Carver acknowledged that Dr. Ira Kanfer, who performed the autopsy in December 2009, did not document the path the knife took in Koster's body, nor did he measure the depth of the injury to her liver.
It was Carver's second day on the witness stand at the trial of Evans Ganthier, 33, of Port Jefferson Station, before State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro. Ganthier is charged with second-degree murder.
Defense attorney William Keahon had Carver mark the places where he said Koster was stabbed. Keahon borrowed Carver's brass-handled cane to note the distance between the external wound and the liver in a photograph shown on a screen.
Carver said the stomach would normally be between the stab wound and the liver, but there was no record of any injury to the stomach.
Police say Ganthier told them that Koster tripped in his garage and hit the floor hard and died. He told detectives he panicked and took the body to Connecticut and mutilated and burned it.
With a photo of the liver's wound on the screen, Carver conceded that although he believed it was caused by a knife, it was possible an abrupt fall could have caused the liver to rip.
At a break in testimony, a smiling Ganthier whispered "thank you" to Keahon.
Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson acknowledged the autopsy's shortcomings in asking Carver, "Is it fair to say that Dr. Kanfer could have done a little bit more than he did?"
"Yes, that's fair," Carver answered.
But he agreed with Albertson's suggestion that a knife entering near the belly button could have pierced the liver without traveling through the stomach if Koster were stabbed during a struggle.
"Organs move when you move," Carver said, agreeing that if Koster was bent over when she was stabbed, the liver might have been closer to the navel.
When Keahon expressed doubt about that, Carver said, "All I can tell you is, things move around and it's possible."