Sun, Aug 29, 2010 - Page 13 News List

Guilty by association?

A new forensic study in Taiwan’s most infamous murder case found no evidence against the three co-defendants and concludes that the ‘Hsichih Trio’ most likely were not present at the scene of the 1991 crime

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The current trial is distinguished by the new forensic work, which casts doubt on prosecutors’ claims.

At the beginning of the trial, the court granted a request by the defense to order a fresh analysis of the evidence. It appointed Taiwanese forensic scientist Dr Henry Lee (李昌鈺) to carry out the work.

The decision turned heads in judicial circles. Forensic work in Taiwan is normally carried out by investigators at police departments and the Ministry of Justice’s Institute of Forensic Medicine. And Lee had previously testified for the defense in 2007, when he was called to comment on alleged flaws in earlier forensic analyses.

Lee is a prominent forensic scientist in the US, where he has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

He completed his forensic report last year and was called to testify on Aug. 13. The Taipei Times obtained a copy of his report.

Lee’s analysis suggests a story very different from the crime described in the 1991 indictment.

According to the indictment, Wang Wen-hsiao, Su, Liu and Chuang entered the apartment in search of valuables. Su, Chuang and Liu came armed with a machete, a baton and a fruit knife — which they later also took with them from the crime scene. Wang Wen-hsiao used a meat cleaver he found in the kitchen. Three of the suspects held down the victims in their bedroom while the fourth searched for valuables. The suspects then took turns raping Yeh. The stabbing and bludgeoning began when her husband tried to stop them.

After the crime, the indictment said, the men cleaned the bedroom for fingerprints, cleaned themselves in the bathroom, put Yeh’s clothes back on, returned the meat cleaver to the kitchen and left. Only a few fingerprints, belonging to Wang, were accidentally left intact, it said.

Lee used enlarged original photographs from the scene of the crime as well as autopsy records to reconstruct the murders on site at the original location in Sijhih. Based on his analysis, Lee concluded that the scenario laid out by prosecutors was “highly improbable.”

The location of the bodies and bloodstains in the room indicate a very different course of events, he says in his report. A single intruder entered the bedroom and began opening a drawer in search of valuables. The couple woke up and were attacked with a large knife while still in bed. Wu managed to stand up during the attack but succumbed quickly under a barrage of hacking. Yeh was able to move across the bed before falling onto the floor.

Once they were immobilized on the floor, the killer continued to hack at their heads wildly until he was certain they were dead. The intruder then searched the room and left.

Deep bone wounds on both bodies indicate the murderer was swinging a large knife in a wide arc and bringing it down with “extreme force,” Lee says in his report. He believes the couple were immobilized very quickly.

Several of Lee’s findings directly contradict the indictment. There were no bludgeon wounds on the bodies. Intact bloodstains and blood pools show no indications of any cleaning after the crime. Unsmeared blood on Yeh’s clothes and around her body indicate that she was not undressed and redressed. No semen or other indicators consistent with sexual assault were found on her body.

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