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Graphic photos, testimony in murder trial

A handout image of Kalila Taylor who is

A handout image of Kalila Taylor who is being tried in the 1996 killing of Curtisha Morning. Credit: SCPD/Handout

The ferocity of the attack that killed a Riverhead High School homecoming queen became quietly clear as the Suffolk chief medical examiner described 94 stab wounds on the victim's body.

One deep, ragged wound to the side of Curtisha Morning's neck was likely the one that killed her on Feb. 29, 1996, Dr. Yvonne Milewski testified before State Supreme Court Justice William Condon. That wound severed Morning's spinal cord and would have caused her to lose control of her limbs and lungs, she said.

"She would immediately stop being able to breathe," Milewski said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson.

She testified Friday at the second trial of Kalila Taylor, now 35. Taylor was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder, but an appellate court threw out the verdict because of faulty jury instructions. Morning was killed two weeks after she started dating the father of Taylor's first child.

Using graphic autopsy photos, Milewski took jurors on a visual tour of Morning's savaged body, which was found at the edge of a high school athletic field.

There were five stab wounds to her face, including one that penetrated her lip. There were 12 on her right hand, four of which went from the back of it through the front.

There were seven on her left hand, one of which went all the way through.

There were four wounds on her back, three near her hips, one on her thigh.

There were 36 wounds on the top of her head, including one cluster of at least 25 overlapping wounds. And another cluster of 27 wounds on the back of her neck.

Most of those likely happened after Morning was down on the ground, immobile and likely dying, Milewski said.

Taylor glanced occasionally at autopsy photos on a screen.

The testimony ended with a single defense witness, the defendant's father, Wayland Taylor. During questioning by defense attorney John LoTurco, he said he took his daughter to the hospital after another girl bit her finger, causing it to bleed, about a month before the murder.

While there, he said his daughter talked to Curtisha Morning. The testimony suggested that Taylor may have bled on Morning's boots, explaining why her DNA was recovered from them.

Albertson ignored that theory during her cross-examination. Instead, she confronted Taylor about posters his wife put up around Riverhead that accused the Morning family of stealing Kalila Taylor's necklace, which was found near Morning's body, and "scratching up" Kalila Taylor to get DNA to frame her for the murder.

Closing statements are scheduled for Monday. If convicted, Taylor faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

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