Forensic scientist: Carpet in Whittons’ bedroom tested positive for human blood, but DNA tests yielded no results

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SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) - The second week of testimony is underway in Jackson County in the murder trial for Barry Whitton.

The defendant is charged with the murder of his first wife, Michelle Whitton, in 1997.  Her body was found buried in a shallow grave in DeKalb County weeks later, her car, before that.

Forensic scientist Roger Morrison is on the stand, called as the first witness this week in what is still the State's case. The State showed pictures of the Whittons' home.

The pictures were of the carpet in the master bedroom, which has been at the center of many questions during this trial. Morrison pointed out the cut out pieces of carpet visible, and testified that an area within the cut out pieces tested positive for blood. He then went on to testify the nature of the tests done after that to make the positive determination that human blood was present.  Morrison said through the tests, they determined human blood was present in one area, in what he called a 'drag pattern' in the master bedroom.

Morrison said there were areas that showed blood might be present in the master bedroom but didn't test positive for human blood.  This could be for a number of reasons, including not enough to sample and having been cleaned recently.

In cross-examination, Barry Whitton's lawyers asked Morrison if he did DNA testing on the area where they found human blood. Morrison said they didn't get any reaction from those tests. The defense pointed out with that, officials didn't know then if that human blood came from Barry, Michelle, or Ethan Whitton, who is their son. The defense also pointed out that officials didn't know if the human blood detected in the tests came from someone who lived there before the Whittons, or when it was deposited on the carpet.

The defense asked if Michelle's car was examined, and Morrison said he looked for blood stains visually, but did not perform a test. Morrison said the testing done in the master bedroom, regardless of not seeing any visual blood stains as with the car, was done because of the cut-outs in the carpet.

The defense asked if Morrison was told at the time that Barry Whitton was the suspect in the case, to which Morrison replied he was. The defense asked if he was told of any other suspects in this case, and Morrison said he was not. He also said he was never asked to test anything from any home other than Whitton's.

Whitton's lawyers asked Morrison about the drag pattern he had testified about previously, asking him to clarify what a drag pattern is. Morrison said a drag pattern refers to a streak of blood in the carpet. The defense asked Morrison if a reasonable explanation for a pattern like that found in the Whittons' bedroom could be caused by someone cutting themselves shaving and walking to the bathroom, to which Morrison replied yes, if that person dragged their ankle on the carpet.

The State then called medical examiner Dr. Joseph Embry to the stand.  Dr. Embry did the autopsy on Michelle. He testified about the injuries Michelle sustained, including at least two blunt force wounds on the back of her head, saying a great amount of force caused them.

Michelle's mother Joyce Smart was called to the stand next. Crying while she described her daughter, she said Michelle was a "wonderful daughter" and just "took care of mama, took care of her little brother."

Mrs. Smart said she remembers it "like it was yesterday" when she found out something had happened to Michelle. She testified the day Michelle was reported missing Barry started telling the story about how Michelle went to go get breakfast, and he went looking for her.

Mrs. Smart said eventually, Barry told her Michelle had stolen some money he had and she went out to go buy drugs that morning. "I just kept telling him, 'Barry, she wasn't on drugs', and he said 'yes she was'," Mrs. Smart said, "I said you need to tell the police then, if this is so, you need to tell the police."

Mrs. Smart told the court Barry later said that story wasn't true. "Barry said, 'I want to tell you something else, she didn't go buy drugs that morning. I just told you that.' I said 'I knew when you told me that, that wasn't so.' He was crying too, and I was crying, and we were just standing there talking," Mrs. Smart said.

Court has ended for the day. It will resume Tuesday morning at 8:30.

 

Read extensive coverage of Barry Whitton's trial on WHNT.com.