BY KATHY CHANG
NEW BRUNSWICK – Forensic Pathologist Wendy Gunther, who conducted the autopsy on William McGuire in Virginia, said that it was likely that he was shot as many as four times.
“The gunshots through his head and chest are the only parts of the case that are easy,” said Gunther, who said either shot would have killed him. “The gunshots that went through his forehead and chest had clear exit wounds.”
Gunther said the two bullets found during the autopsy are not believed to be the bullets that fatally killed McGuire.
His wife, Melanie McGuire, 34, a former fertility nurse, is accused of killing him in their Woodbridge Center Plaza Apartment and later dismembering his body, more than two years ago. McGuire, who resides in Brick Township, has pleaded no,nst her and remains free on $2.1 million bail
Gunther, who pointed to her forehead to demonstrate to the jury where the bullet entered McGuire’s head and where it exited, said that McGuire was alive when the gunshots went through his head and through his chest.
“He was cut long after his death, because the cuts had no blood,” she said. “If a cut is made after the body is dead, it doesn’t bleed … .”
Gunther said the second bullet, which was found deep inside his body, was frustrating because she could not find where it came from.
“It’s so peculiar because it was found with massive fibers around it,” she said. “It reminded me of bullets I’ve seen that have gone through couches or upholstery, but without his clothing, I don’t know the whole picture.”
During direct examination, Gunther said the second bullet could possibly be a “short return,” referring to when a bullet partially exits the body but then goes back in.
“This is rare,” she said. “Over the 12 to 13 years that I have been a forensic pathologist, I have only seen 10 to 15 cases of short returns. Usually the bullet is slowed down, either by a bone, and then when it reaches the skin, which acts like elastic, it brings the bullet back in.”
Gunther said she had a difficult time determining the course of the bullet because of the condition the body was found in, and its level of decomposition.
She explained that rigor mortis, one of the recognizable signs of death, depends on what temperature the body is left in.
“If someone is killed the day before and is left in a hot temperature, then the body will be more decomposed than a body which is left in a cooler temperature,” she said.
During cross-examination, Gunther said the legs found in the first suitcase look like a body that died the day before in a hospital and was kept in a cooler.
Virginia Beach police found the first small, dark green Kenneth Cole Reaction carry-on suitcase, which the jury heard contained the legs – cut from the knees down – of the deceased, floating in the water between the fourth island and the high-rise bridge near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at 11:30 a.m. on May 5, 2004.
The second matching suitcase, which the jury heard contained the torso of the deceased, was discovered almost a week later on May 11. The third suitcase, a 20-inch, contained the midsection of the deceased, found on May 16.
A toxicology test was conducted on McGuire’s body, which came back with negative results for alcohol or drug usage.
Assistant Attorney General Patricia Prezioso questioned the usage of chloral hydrate. The state alleges that Melanie McGuire conducted several Internet searches for the sedative, which is used in the short-term treatment of insomnia and to relieve anxiety and induce sleep before surgery. It is also used after surgery for pain and to treat alcohol withdrawal.
McGuire is accused of forging a prescription for the sedative at a Walgreens just days before she allegedly murdered her husband, authorities have said.
“If the sedative was combined with alcohol more than 24 hours before his death, would the alcohol remain in the body?” asked Prezioso.
Gunther replied, “No.”
John Ward, a firearms and toolmarks expert from Virginia Beach, testified that the bullets found with McGuire’s body are 2-inch wad cutter flat-nosed bullets, which are commonly used by target shooters.
Ward said the bullets are consistent with the Taurus gun that Melanie McGuire bought, as well as with five other gun manufacturers.
Timothy Lacek, account executive for Hospital Central Services in Allentown, Pa., told the jury that his company supplied Reproductive Medicine Associates office in Morristown, where Melanie McGuire worked, with roughly 100 HCSC medical blankets a week in April 2004.
An HCSC blanket was found in the second suitcase with the torso portion of the deceased.
Under cross-examination, Lacek said his company supplies roughly 100 facilities in New Jersey.