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The trail of blood

Analyst testifies that victim’s DNA was found throughout alleged murderer’s home

Posted: October 22, 2010 10:15 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Joshua Pipho’s blood was found inside the Stevenson Ranch home — in the garage, laundry room and upstairs bathroom — where his alleged killer, Michael Dean Stephens, lived, a DNA analyst told San Fernando Superior Court on Friday.

Anselmo Casas, a senior criminalist who works in the biology section of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said blood samples collected inside the single-family home in the 26000 block of Singer Place contained specific genetic information identical to Pipho’s genetic information.

Casas said he analyzed blood samples taken from the top and front of a washing machine inside the home and from a shower door, then determined they were a match to Pipho’s DNA profile.

Pipho’s blood was found on the 4-inch blade of a folding knife and on the knife’s handle, he said.

Putting on surgical gloves, Casas opened an envelope given to him by Deputy District Attorney Mary Sedgwick on the witness stand, pulled a folding knife from the envelope and told the jury it was the same one he had examined.

Pipho’s blood was also found, he said, inside, outside and underneath a dark-blue Lincoln Mark VIII recovered by sheriff’s detectives at the Singer Place home.

Blood samples lifted from the car’s steering wheel, driver’s door, driver’s seat, gas pedal and undercarriage were also identified as Pipho’s blood through Casas’ DNA analysis.

Casas explained to the jury that DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid and is the genetic material found in cells.

Putting the “matches” he made into perspective, he told jurors there is at least a one-in-sextillion chance that genetic information found in the samples belonged to someone other than Josh Pipho, with a sextillion being a thousand billion.

Stephens, now 21, faces two felony counts in the stabbing of two men in November 2007 — he is accused of killing one and critically injuring the other. He is charged with murder and attempted premeditated murder.

Before Friday’s court proceedings got underway, Stephens walked into the courtroom from the custody area wearing a gray jacket, his tie draped around his shoulders.

Defense lawyer Peter J. Korn stood up to face his client, then tied and straightened Stephens’ tie.

The body of 20-year-old Josh Pipho was found Nov. 23, 2007, in the Diamond Head apartment complex.

In her opening statements presented at the start of the trial, Sedgwick said Stephens stabbed Pipho about 16 times then got into his car and intentionally drove over him. She said Stephens struck Pipho’s friend Chad Weitz with the car, and then stabbed him approximately 16 times as well.

A blood sample collected from a blood-stained sidewalk on Steinbeck Avenue matched the DNA profile of Weitz, Casas testified.

Although she did not formally announce that the prosecution rests its case, Sedgwick presented the last of her evidence Friday with video surveillance of the Singer Place home recorded the night after the deadly altercation.

Jurors watched half a dozen black-and-white video clips of cars pulling in and out of the home on Singer Place, and of people coming and going from the home as late as 3 a.m. on Nov. 24, 2007.

The surveillance video footage of the Stephens’ driveway was recorded by the family’s next-door neighbor and stamped with the date and time it was shot.

Detective Bob Kenney of the Sheriff’s Department interpreted for the jury what was taking place on the video, pointing out on a chart at one point that the Singer Place home is 1.4 miles from the Diamond Head apartment complex.

Korn, who is expected to begin presenting his case Monday, had no cross-examination questions for either Casas or Kenney.


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