SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – An expert in the field of forensic pathology took the stand in Sullivan County court Friday afternoon and shared new details in the death of toddler Evelyn Boswell.
Evelyn’s mother, Megan Boswell, has been charged with a string of charges, including two counts of felony murder. At Friday’s hearing, the court heard arguments for certain photographs to be used as evidence after Boswell’s attorney, Brad Sproles, had objected to using some of them.
After hearing testimony from an agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan took the stand. Mileusnic-Polchan is the chief medical examiner for Knox and Anderson counties. She also has an active license to practice medicine in Tennessee.
Mileusnic-Polchan said she found that Evelyn’s cause of death was asphyxia in four different places. She also said that it was, in her opinion, a homicide.
In TBI Agent Brian Fraley’s earlier testimony, he said that Megan Boswell had previously said Evelyn died in an accident while co-sleeping with her and her then-boyfriend.
Mileusnic-Polchan refuted that statement, saying Evelyn was too old at the time of her death to have died in such a manner, and the environment was not conducive to that type of death. According to Mileusnic-Polchan, there was a “mechanical obstruction” to Evelyn’s airway in the form of foil, and a blanket had been tightly wrapped around her head.
In addition, Mileusnic-Polcha testified that being in the trash can in which she was found was another form of asphyxiation.
She went on to testify that the photos being discussed as potential evidence give a complete picture of the manner in which Evelyn died, as well as the placement and condition of her body, which had started to decompose.
At that point, Sproles asked the court to hold further testimony until Boswell could see the photos for herself. After a 15-minute recess, the court resumed. When Boswell reentered the courtroom, she appeared to be crying.
Mileusnic-Polchan continued to testify, stating that the photos show active signs of decomposition and the positioning of Evelyn’s body in the trash can, which was placed in such a way that it caused further asphyxiation. She described the way in which the toddler was placed as an “unnatural folding of the body.”
Mileusnic-Polchan also said the onesie that Evelyn was wearing was not zipped, which was why part of her leg and foot were exposed. Fraley said previously he found Evelyn’s remains in the trash can after spotting her leg and foot.
In her experience, Mileusnic-Polchan has only ever seen one case of a child around Evelyn’s age dying after an adult laid on top of them. That case was ruled a homicide, she said. She went on to say Evelyn was “well-developed” at the time of her death, further disputing Megan Boswell’s claims that she died in an accidental co-sleeping incident.
Mileusnic-Polchan described several of the photos as disturbing, particularly Exhibit 23, which she said shows how tightly a thick fleece blanket was wrapped around Evelyn’s head. She went into further detail on how creatures like flies and maggots had damaged the body during its decomposition.
During Sproles’ cross-examination of Mileusnic-Polchan, he referenced other photos. She said those photos, which were not disputed as evidence, are not sufficient for a jury to understand the severity of the asphyxiation and alleged murder. They also do not show the level of effort it took to remove the layers and other elements from Evelyn’s remains.
While still on the stand, Mileusnic-Polchan said the infestation of maggots and decomposition prevented examiners from seeing if blunt force trauma was a factor in Evelyn’s death, but the skeleton did not show damage.
In his closing argument, District Attorney General Barry Staubus said the photos in question do not show open wounds, blood or facial expressions. He argued all photos in a homicide case are disturbing, but these are not overly gruesome without providing the full scope of the situation.
Sproles disagreed, saying that the fact that a forensic pathologist thought the images were disturbing was telling. He said he believes the jury would have an emotional response to seeing them, which would hinder their ability to make a rational decision.
Judge James Goodwin looked over each photo individually after hearing closing arguments. One photo, Exhibit 16, was omitted after Goodwin said there was something that “absolutely bothers” him, making him worry about the jury members. Another, Exhibit 14, was disallowed after Goodwin said it was cumulative with another.
Exhibits 20-22 were ruled cumulative and were not allowed. Exhibit 23, described as a close-up of Evelyn’s face after the layers had been removed was disallowed.
Goodwin asked for Exhibit 25 to be presented in black and white due to some details within.
Of the photos in question, Exhibits 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 were allowed to be used as evidence.
Goodwin said the next court date was set for Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m.
You can find complete coverage of the search for and case of Evelyn Boswell by clicking here.