Pathologist in Lufkin man's murder trial: Victim was stabbed multiple times

Pathologist in Lufkin man's murder trial: Victim was stabbed multiple times
Richard Taylor (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Richard Taylor (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Shirley Taylor (Source: Evie White)
Shirley Taylor (Source: Evie White)
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The forensic pathologist that performed the autopsy on Shirley Taylor began testimony on day three of the Richard Taylor murder trial.

Taylor is accused as killing his wife Shirley Taylor back on Halloween in 2013. If he is found guilty, Taylor could face up to 99 years in prison.

"I performed this autopsy under the request of Judge Billy Ball," Rawlston said.

Rawlston told prosecuting attorney Katrina Carswell that the autopsy was performed by request because Angelina County does not have a medical examiner.

Rawlston said when Shirley Taylor's body was brought to him there was no clothing other than socks and had a large amount of medical scars.

Rawlston said one stab wound went into her side and caused hemorrhage of the lung. He continued saying wound caused about a little less than a pint of blood to enter the stomach.  Rawlston said there was another stab wound that made and "L" shape and contacted the liver.

"It had to have a significant length to have contacted the liver," Rawlston said. "It would have had to be at least three to four inches."

Rawlston went onto describe a stab wound by the shoulder that cut into the muscle and two more wounds on the back of the forearm.

Rawlston said the largest width of any of the stab wounds was 1.4 inches wide.

"I would expect with that number, the blade is about an inch wide," Rawlston said.

Carswell showed the suspected murder weapon to Rawlston and he said that believed he would have expected a little bit bigger knife.

Rawlston said Shirley Taylor's lung, liver, and small intestines all had damage from stab wounds. Rawlston also said there was bruising under the back side of the head.

"It was still in the red phase," Rawlston said. "It goes red then purple then brown. It could have happened a day or two before or at the time of death."

Rawlston said after looking over the body's condition, he did a toxicology report.

Defense attorney Al Charanza questioned Rawlston about possible cocaine use by Shirley Taylor and Rawlston said it is difficult to tell when the drug may have been in her body due to the medical intervention she was given.

Charanza brought up Shirley's medical history which included diabetes, damage to her kidneys, damage to her liver, and as hepatitis C.

Rawlston said the cause of Shirley Taylor's death was cardiac arrest.

"When we die, all of our hearts stop," Rawlston said. "That is the definition of death not the cause. What happened before that is the cause of death."

Evie White then talked about her sister, Shirley Taylor.

White said she had some health conditions that she was going to the doctor for.

"She could walk on her own," White said. "She sometimes had to walk with her walker."
White said Shirley had lived at the Ministry in Action apartments for about four years. White also said she knew Richard and Shirley had arguments.

"One Sunday I invited the family to come over and I saw them arguing outside," White said. "I asked them both to leave because I felt uncomfortable.  I told him that I thought he wasn't going to do this anymore."

White said she believes that particular argument happened a couple of weeks before the stabbing.
"I remember another Tuesday where Richard came over to my goddaughters house and he said, 'She gave me my car keys back, and she don't want me no more,'" White said. "I was trying to calm things down."

White said Shirley Taylor could get a mean mouth if she got mad, but she was not an angry person. She thinks the argument was over a love-hate relationship.

"It was about control," White said. "Richard was controlling."

White said the Tuesday incident took place the week before she died.

White said she had never heard them arguing about finances or living together but she had heard other people bring it up. White did hear the two arguing about relationships with other people.

"That one Sunday, Shirley was in my house and sitting on the couch, and a person came up and talked to Richard, and I said that was a woman and she got upset," White said.

White said she believes Richard Taylor was a jealous man but that Shirley Taylor never did anything that warranted the jealousy. She said if Shirley Taylor spoke to a male friend, Richard Taylor would get mad.

"I've seen him pull on her," White said. "That was at Sunday dinner."

White believed she was well liked and had no enemies. White said when she went to the hospital to see Shirley she was told she could speak to her sister once she went into recovery, but she was never able to.

White brought a big picture of Shirley Taylor at church and said she was happy at church.

"She loved church, "White said. "She always looked forward to going to church on Sundays."

After the lunch break, the state was scheduled to question a DNA expert from the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab. However, the witness was a no-show, prompting Judge Paul White to call the DPS office in Houston to get answers.

After White was told that the witness wouldn't be able to testify until 3 p.m., he left a stern comment for the DPS officials and put the jury on break until 3 p.m.

Commenting on Carswell's attempts to get the expert witness to the jury trial, Charanza said it should reflect badly on her.

Adam Vinson with the Houston Forensic Science Center but formally with the DPS crime lab started answering questions at 3:14 p.m.

Vinson said his office received evidence on April 14, 2014.Vinson received a sexual assault kit, an envelope of hair samples, swabs from the bathtub, swabs of Richard Taylor's chest, fingernail clippings of Shirley Taylor, and a buckle swab from Richard. Vinson said he also received a blood sample from Shirley Taylor.

Vinson said with the sexual assault kit, he did not detect any semen. Vinson told Charanza that there was also no blood or semen found on the swab from the bathtub.

Vinson said his only job on the case was to look at blood. Vinson admitted to Charanza even though they did not get the samples until April, he did not get the case to him until two months later.

"We were over-worked and understaff," Vinson said. "It's not unusual to have evidence sit there for a year to a year and a half. This case actually went really fast."

Tammy Biers with the DPS crime lab answered questions next. Biers told the jury she was the one to swab the knife at the crime lab.
Biers said they did not get any DNA evidence on the bathroom swab. Biers said she did find a DNA profile for Shirley Taylor on the finger clippings. A Richard Taylor profile was also found.

Charanza asked if it is possible for Taylor's DNA to be there because he was always over there at the home. Biers said yes, but they don't know how it got there just that it did. Biers said the same is true about the bathroom sample.
Biers showed testing results under a new method used, and on the left-hand samples of fingernails, there is a 50 percent chance the DNA found belonged to Richard Taylor.

Charanza asked if it was true that there was no interpretable DNA evidence on the knife handle.

Under the old system, the knife handle was consistent with a mixture.

In August of 2014, Biers said he was excluded from the DNA profile.

Biers told Charanza the same was true about the blade.

Biers told Carswell the interpretations over the two years were different because of new guidelines they had to use.

"The DNA is there. It's just about how we are allowed to interpret the DNA," Biers said. "With the new way, there was not enough [on the knife] to make an interpertation."

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