DNA analyst: Murder suspect had victim’s blood on hand

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A DNA analyst at the Montana State Crime Lab said blood found on a murder suspect’s left hand matched that of the alleged victim during testimony Wednesday at the Flathead County Courthouse in Kalispell.

The third day of the Ryan Lamb murder trial saw the prosecution continue to build its case against the defendant.

Serologists from the State Crime Lab testified about results from their respective tests on evidence collected from the Two Mile Drive apartment where 33-year-old Ryan Nixon died Aug. 5, 2018, after police said Lamb stabbed him to death.

Joseph Pasternak is the DNA supervisor at the crime lab in Missoula. He testified that he examined several items of evidence that the Kalispell Police Department submitted.

“There was a mixture of DNA from both Nixon and Lamb,” Pasternak said. “There was also a mixture of DNA from three people on a pair of black-handled scissors, and Lamb and Nixon couldn’t be excluded.”

That testimony preceded testimony by Dr. Sunil Prashar, the forensic pathologist at the State Crime Lab.

Prashar, a veteran of more than 2,000 autopsies in four states and Washington, D.C., spoke of the wounds that Nixon suffered leading to his death.

He described one wound in the center of Nixon’s chest that was 2 1/2 inches deep and went through the sternum before penetrating the liver. Another cut on Nixon’s left side of his chest cut the spleen. A third on the right side of the chest injured a rib and the liver, according to the pathologist. He also said all three cuts were consistent with being caused by scissors.

“All were significant injuries and resulted in the loss of at least 2 1/2 liters of blood,” Prashar said. “For a man of his size, 5 liters is typical.”

Prashar also said he found other wounds to Nixon’s right shoulder and right arm that crossed each other, resulting in an “X” shape. He said the wounds were superficial and also appeared to be caused by a pair of scissors. There was also a bruise near the wounds that Prashar said appeared as if someone had put a force on his arm.

A wound to the back of Nixon’s head was about 1 3/8 inches long, but not fatal, but would have resulted in a lot of bleeding, Prashar said.

Photos of the wounds left Lamb and some of Nixon’s family members sobbing quietly.

There were also small cuts to Nixon’s right ring finger and middle finger that Prashar said were defensive wounds, as if he were attempting to shield blows from an attacker.

Prashar said the wounds that Nixon suffered would not have been immediately fatal and that it could have taken some time before he died.

“If he were near a hospital and been taken there quickly, he could have survived,” Prashar said.

He also testified that Nixon had a blood alcohol level of 0.188, traces of marijuana in his blood and opiate painkillers in his urine.

“He didn’t die of an overdose, he died of sharp force injuries,” Prashar said.

Lamb’s defense team of Alisha Backus and Emily Lamson didn’t spend much time cross examining the forensic witnesses, but they did attempt to show Lamb as a victim of abuse by Nixon.

One incident occurred Feb. 25, 2018, less than six months before Nixon died.

Wanda Adamavich is a property manager who lived in the complex where Nixon rented a small apartment. She said that shortly after Nixon moved in, Lamb arrived and a domestic incident occurred. While no one truly knows who threw a cellphone, Lamb ended up with a cut below his right eye. He left the apartment and Adamavich followed him to a nearby casino so police would know where to find him.

“I told Lamb he wasn’t allowed on the property and that I had a duty to protect my tenants and the properties,” Adamavich said.

When Kalispell Police Officer Brooke Pokorny spoke with Lamb outside the casino, he said Nixon threw a phone at him, causing the cut below his eye. When officers tried to talk to Nixon, he couldn’t be reached.

Officer Pokorny suggested Lamb get a restraining order against Nixon and “to stay away from him.”

But, according to Adamavich, she heard Lamb outside a month later and told both men that Lamb couldn’t be on the property.

There was also testimony from friends and acquaintances of Lamb and Nixon that Flathead County prosecutors Travis Ahner and Alison Howard used in an attempt to show that both men were in good spirits and getting along a little more than one hour before Nixon died.

“Both of them were nice guys, but Nixon was more mature,” Lexi Riley testified. “There weren’t any arguments between them. Nixon said he wanted to go home, and Lamb decided he wanted to go to a casino. Everyone said their goodbyes and everyone seemed happy.”

Riley said both men, another friend and she were having a few drinks at a bar near the bar where Nixon and Lamb worked together.

“I never saw spats or violence between the two of them, they were both nice, funny guys,” Riley said.

Lamb faces a maximum term of life in prison.

Jurors, nine women and five men, will hear more Wednesday with testimony expected to resume at 9 a.m.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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