Connecticut's former chief medical examiner told a jury Thursday that a Medford woman whose body was dumped in his state died from stab wounds to her neck and abdomen, but conceded during cross-examination that he never examined her body himself and that there is no documentation for some of his findings.
Dr. Harold Carver, the recently retired chief medical examiner, testified in State Supreme Court in Riverhead about an autopsy performed by one of his employees, Dr. Ira Kanfer. Using Kanfer's report and autopsy photos, Carver said he concluded that Rebecca Koster, 24, died from stab wounds to her liver and her neck, which allowed air to get into her heart and stop it.
During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson, he said he came to that conclusion by examining a chest X-ray of Koster's body, which he said showed a pocket of air in her heart.
He testified at the trial of Evans Ganthier, 33, of Port Jefferson Station. Ganthier is accused of killing Koster on Dec. 4, 2009, and then taking the body to Connecticut, where he mutilated it and set it on fire.
During a combative cross-examination, defense attorney William Keahon attacked the credibility of Carver's office, noting one of his assistants is facing perjury charges in Massachusetts, and asked why Carver was on the stand at all instead of Kanfer.
"Is Dr. Kanfer ill or sick, or anything like that?" Keahon asked. "Is he on vacation?"
Carver said nothing prevented Kanfer from testifying. Kanfer's autopsy report said nothing about the neck wounds contributing to Koster's death or about an air pocket in her heart.
Carver told Keahon there was no report or note documenting his finding that there was air in her heart, nor did he recall telling Kanfer about his finding.
"You just made that up, didn't you?" Keahon said. Carver, who sighed often and heavily throughout Keahon's questioning, angrily replied he would never commit perjury.
"Well, your Dr. Frank Evangelista is charged with perjury, isn't he?" Keahon said.
"That's a bogus charge," Carver replied.
He said he agreed with Kanfer's report finding no injuries in the "soft tissue or vital organs of the neck," but said Kanfer may have missed a cut to a jugular vein that sucked air into the heart.
"As Sherlock Holmes said, sometimes you look and don't see," Carver said.
"Didn't he also say that sometimes you see things that aren't there?" Keahon replied.
Police say that Ganthier told them after his arrest that Koster tripped over some dumbbells in his garage, hit her head and died soon afterward. They say he told them he panicked and cut off her fingers, toes, ears, nose and tattoos and dumped the body in Connecticut.
Carver said the autopsy showed no head injuries and that the wound to her liver would not have been caused by a fall.