Forensic pathologist takes stand at Angelina Co. murder trial

Jarrard Holland is on trial for the shooting death of Kimberly O'Quinn.
Jarrard Holland is on trial for the shooting death of Kimberly O'Quinn.
Tommy Brown, a forensic pathologist, performed the autopsy on Kimberly O'Quinn.
Tommy Brown, a forensic pathologist, performed the autopsy on Kimberly O'Quinn.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – For six years two Angelina County families have waited for answers after 21-year-old Kimberly O'Quinn was found dead.

O'Quinn's then-boyfriend Jarrard Holland is being tried for her murder a second time.

"It's the hardest thing our family has ever been through and it's something that I don't wish on any family," said Holland's Niece Hayle Garner.

They lived it in 2004, re-lived the pain in the 2007 trial, and now again in the retrial.

"We were the first ones to see her in the emergency room and it was the most horrible sight I have ever seen and now it brings it all back to my memory," said O'Quinn's Aunt Stacey Womack.

O'Quinn was found dead at a Pollok home in 2004.

Holland told deputies she committed suicide, but the state says he killed her.

Tommy Brown, a forensic pathologist performed the autopsy on O'Quinn and testified the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head beneath the chin. The manor of death was undetermined.

"Our hearts do go out to their families because we've known Kim since she was little and it is sad, but I don't think my brother should have to spend the rest of his life in prison for something that we all know in our hearts that he did not do," said Holland's sister Julie Childers.

"I think the facts show he did it," said Womack.  "I mean, if you just review the facts, it's right there in front of you."

For both families, it's been six long years.

"The good thing that's going to come from this is there's going to be resolution, either way it goes, there's going to be resolutions for both families," said Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Doctor Debra Burton.

Burton said families grieve a suicide differently than a murder.

"They have been putting their energy into anger, wanting this to be resolved, believing that their daughter was murdered," explained Burton. "For him, it's dealing with the possible consequences that could come of this."

Burton said there will be no happy ending.  The families agree, some form of closure is long overdue.

"We've lost part of our family too, including Kim, we've lost her too. So it's hard on both families," said Garner.

EDITORS' NOTE: Holley Nees covered the trial and provided live accounts today at Following is her account.

The second day of a retrial began in a six-year-old murder case with a forensic pathologist on the stand discussing the autopsy he performed on 21-year-old Kimberly O'Quinn.

Jarrard Holland is being tried a second time for the 2004 shooting death of his then-girlfriend O'Quinn. O'Quinn was found dead at a home where the couple supposedly lived on Tom Hampton Road in Pollok. Holland was tried for the murder back in October 2007. The five-day trial ended with a hung jury.

The pathologist, Dr. Tommy J. Brown, said he discovered O'Quinn, "had a gunshot wound beneath the chin…She also had a remarkably swollen left eye."

Brown said further examination revealed some bruises on O'Quinn's neck and scars on her body that had healed. When Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington questioned Brown about the location of the barrel to the victim he said, "This appeared to be a loose contact gunshot wound."

Brown said he found the cause of O'Quinn's death was a "gunshot wound to the head, beneath the chin." He said the path of the bullet, "went essentially straight up through the head."

Brown walked the jury through photos of O'Quinn and said he discovered small fragments of a lead bullet within the brain.  He said with a gunshot wound like O'Quinn's, "I think she would be rendered unconscious right away…I'd expect her to collapse where she was."

Herrington began asking Brown about his knowledge of how women usually commit suicide, but Brown was stopped short of his answer with an objection from an attorney from Holland's defense team.

The jury was asked to leave the courtroom while Judge Paul White heard both attorneys' arguments for using Brown's response.  Holland's lawyer said there is no empirical or scientific data being introduced that supports Brown's suggestion that women committing suicide, "usually try to preserve their looks in most instances."  Brown said, in his 38 years of experience, women, "usually try to commit suicide some other way."  He said the gunshot wound is not usually through the neck, it's usually through the chest.

Stephanie Stephens, one of Holland's defense attorneys, argued that Brown's opinion isn't based on a scientific study it's based on his experience and "talking with other people in the field," Stevens told Judge White.  "I think it will prejudice the jury to hear this testimony."

White said, "How can I prevent him from expressing his experience, having performed autopsies for 38 years?"  However, the jury was brought back in the courtroom and the attorneys moved on without further questioning Brown about his experience on the issue of women and suicide.

The defense attorney questioned Brown about his findings in O'Quinn's toxicology reports.  Brown said he discovered some Valium in O'Quinn's body.

Holland's attorney pointed out young adults under 24, in clinical studies showed they had a tendency to want to commit suicide when they took anti-depressants.

Stephens had Brown, using a gun, display to the jury how the gun was placed on O'Quinn.

Stephens pointed out that someone that had a gunshot wound like O'Quinn's could've fallen differently if they were influenced by their surroundings.

Brown said he concluded the manor of death was undetermined.

Herrington clarified with Brown anti-depressants are usually prescribed to people that have a tendency toward suicide.

The defense told the judge during one objection that the law requires her to ask for a mistrial, but Judge White denied the mistrial request.

Angelina County Sheriff's Narcotics Sgt. Allen Hill was called to the stand Thursday afternoon to testify about the night he responded to the couple's residence.

Hill said he instructed another officer to bag O'Quinn's hands before she was transported by ambulance to the hospital.

Hill said when he left the crime scene that 2004 night, he went straight to the hospital and swabbed the victim's hands, sealed it as evidence, and turned it over to the investigator.

The defense attorney, John Heath Jr., pointed out that Hill used plastic bags to bag O'Quinn's hands that night which do not allow a person's hands to breathe.  Hill agreed that paper bags do allow the hands to breath and better preserve evidence on the hands that investigators would be looking for.

"Moisture tends to wash away the things we're looking for," Hill explained.

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