Autopsy testimony heard in murder trial
At the start of the second week of testimony in the Terry Hankins murder trial, the court viewed the most graphic photos to date of Cynthia Hankins’ remains.
Terry is accused of killing Cynthia, his wife, and then dismembering her body.
He is charged with first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony, and abuse of a corpse, a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Before the prosecution introduced photos from Cynthia’s autopsy, attorneys briefly conferenced with the judge to settle the defense’s objection that the pictures were too inflammatory and would unfairly prejudice the jurors against Terry.
Judge Michael O’Hara said he agreed the photos were “shocking,” but ruled the scientific evidence they contained outweighed the possibility of prejudice.
However, he held back some pictures because they were too graphic and did not contribute anything to the prosecution’s case not already contained in other photos and/or verbal testimony.
“These are far and away the most gruesome photos in a criminal prosecution I have ever seen after 13 years,” O’Hara said before giving his ruling.
The pictures were published to the court during testimony from Dr. Ben Galloway, of Golden, who performed Cynthia’s autopsy.
Three of the photos depicted various injuries to Cynthia’s body sustained when she was hit in the face with a crowbar and then dismembered.
Terry stated to law enforcement on recorded confessions that he cut off his wife’s hands, legs and head after choking her unconscious and hitting her twice in the head with a crowbar.
The jury heard three such recorded confessions made by Hankins to law enforcement last week during the trial’s first few days.
Galloway testified that the wounds on Cynthia’s body, both the physical trauma to her head and the cuts made in dismembering her body, were consistent with the story Terry gave law enforcement.
That is, Galloway found the body was dismembered after her death and the wounds to her head could have happened before death.
However, during the defense’s cross-examination, Galloway said it was possible the injuries to Cynthia’s face where she was struck by a crowbar could have come after death.
In that scenario, Cynthia actually could have died from strangulation when Terry choked her unconscious.
Galloway testified he definitely could conclude Cynthia’s cause of death because of the body’s advanced state of decomposition after being buried for roughly three months before law enforcement exhumed the remains at Terry’s gold claim north of Craig.
However, one photo also showed Cynthia’s brain bled at least a little after she was struck in the eye with a crowbar. Galloway said that could suggest she was alive before the strike.
At the same time, the photo of Cynthia’s injuries caused by the second crowbar attack did not show any bleeding, which could suggest she was dead when that attack occurred.
If Cynthia died by strangulation, that would seem to fit with the defense’s claim that Terry killed Cynthia out of self-defense after she attacked him with a fan in their bedroom.
The prosecution has claimed Terry killed his wife after she refused to have sex with him.
The defense has shown through witness testimony that Terry did report to the Craig Police Department that Cynthia abused him at different times during their marriage and that she had a criminal history in Texas that included various cases of her assaulting others.
The prosecution has shown through witness testimony and Terry’s recorded confessions that Terry has given different accounts of what happened the night of his wife’s death.
Those include some statements that he instigated the physical altercation that ended with him killing Cynthia.
Galloway’s testimony came on the same day O’Hara excused one of the jurors from any further participation in the trial. No information about why the juror was dismissed was available by press time.
The juror in question was a man, which leaves the jury at 10 men and three women left to preside in the case.
The prosecution also called Blake Abdella, an evidence technician with the Police Department, who discussed several items law enforcement found at Cynthia’s burial site.
Those included pounds of clothing, as well as some knives, bloody bedding materials and various sexual and pornographic items.
Hankins has stated in recorded confessions that he buried his wife with all of her belongings and the items he used during the killing and moved her body parts to his van after dismembering her.
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