News Column

Casey Anthony Case: Body Unlikely to Be Found, Expert Says

Aug. 3, 2012

Robert Gavin

A key witness at the Florida murder trial of Casey Anthony testified Thursday that the body of a suspected Albany, N.Y. murder victim could have decomposed in the city's vast sewer system, never to be found.

William Rodriguez III, a forensic anthropologist, told jurors the body of Steven "Swag" Jackson could have broken down as a result of decomposition starting in June 2010. Rodriguez testified on Anthony's behalf in the highly publicized case. The Florida woman was acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Rodriguez was not asked about the Anthony case in Thursday's testimony.

The search to find the remains in the sewer did not start until late March 2011.

"That body would begin to disarticulate -- that is, to fall apart," Rodriguez testified upon questioning from Assistant District Attorney Francisco Calderon. He is prosecuting the case with Assistant District Attorney Eric Galarneau.

Rodriguez's testimony served as a tutorial on body decomposition. At various points, he told jurors about the effect on the human body caused by the elements, clothes and even scavenger animals.

Rodriguez' background includes a 22-year career at the Department of Defense as well as work at what was called "The Body Farm" at the University of Tennessee, where body decomposition is closely studied. The doctor said that based on his knowledge of Jackson's case he would expect "not to find any significant evidence of those remains."

Rodriguez did, however, tell defense attorney Michael Mansion it was possible the victim's larger bones, such as femurs, would not have disintegrated in the system.

Ricky "L" Thornton, 42; Jason "Jay" Benn, 39; and Louis "UB" Chaney, who is Mansion's client, face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of allegations they ambushed Jackson, 41. The alleged incident took place about 1 p.m. June 13, 2010, inside the victim's marijuana stash house at 40 Parkwood St. in Albany.

The three are being retried on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary; a jury reached no verdict on those charges in December.

Albany County prosecutors allege the defendants waited for Jackson, a high-level pot dealer, inside the stash house. They say the captors hogtied Jackson, duct-taped his mouth and eyes and beat him until he lost consciousness. They allege the defendants and since-convicted kidnapper Anthony "Inf" Davis left Jackson for dead -- then went to his Guilderland home to try to steal his money.

Davis, who made a plea deal with prosecutors, testified that when he and Benn later checked on Jackson, Benn found the victim dead. Davis said they wrapped Jackson in sheets and a blanket and dumped him down a sewer manhole on Terminal Street in a remote section of the city. His body has never been found.

Albany Detective Alfred Martin testified earlier Thursday that after he debriefed Davis, he searched for Jackson's remains in the Terminal Street manhole in March 2011. Martin said police abandoned their search because it was too perilous to send an investigator in a main pipe raging with raw sewage.

The trial continues Friday.

Source: (c)2012 Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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