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Forensic scientist testifies at triple murder trial

Investigators comb a Central Islip house where three

Investigators comb a Central Islip house where three bodies were found by crew responding to a fire. (Aug. 11, 2009) Credit: James Carbone

Several items -- including a pile of debris -- were collected as evidence at the scene of a triple homicide but were not analyzed at the Suffolk County Crime Lab, a forensic scientist testified Wednesday.

Other items, including a cigar in the same room as the three bodies, were not collected at all. During cross-examination by defense attorney William Keahon, forensic scientist James E. Calkins acknowledged that DNA is found in saliva.

He said that's why forensic scientists swabbed bottles and cups from another room in the house, but did not explain why he left the cigar and a CD case on a chair, but retrieved a shirt and some keys from the chair.

Calkins testified for the third day at the trial of Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and of Central Islip. They are accused of torturing, stabbing, shooting and strangling Vaughan's girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and Mykier Daniels' friend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19, on Aug. 11, 2009.

Last week in the trial, another forensic scientist testified that bloodstains from the crime scene sat in the police property bureau's warehouse for more than two years instead of the crime lab's climate-controlled evidence vault.

Calkins said he and other forensic scientists reviewed the debris in the room where the three were killed before taking a shovel and piling it into a mound on the floor and then putting it all in a large, cardboard box.

The debris included fire damage, plastic bags and bottles and flip-flops, he said.

"At this scene, there was debris all over the place," Calkins said, explaining the decision. "We were in a room with bullet holes. There were three decedents [bodies]. Sometimes you can miss this evidence. Everything's black. It's wet. It's a mess."

Back at the lab, Calkins said two college interns sifted through the box looking for bullets and shell casings. No scientists analyzed anything in the box before it was sent to the police warehouse, where it has remained ever since, he said.

One juror shook her head as she listened. Later, Keahon was dismissive of some of Calkins' proficiency testing. Calkins said he is tested every year on the use of a metal detector.

"Are you pretty good with it?" Keahon asked.

"I passed," Calkins replied, smiling.

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