Hall trial update: Remains tell grisly tale of death, dismemberment
This story has been modified from its original version to reflect that investigators found 14 bags containing human remains - not 15 - in September 2011.
SPRINGFIELD -- The first thing police found was a severed human arm.
Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Christopher Meiklejohn told the jury in Adam Lee Hall's murder trial about the excavation of a freshly disturbed trench on the property of Daniel Cole in Becket.
On Sept. 9, 2011, police investigators learned from David Casey where to look for the bodies of three missing men who had disappeared nearly two weeks earlier from an apartment on Linden Street in Pittsfield.
Testifying on Thursday in Hampden Superior Court, Meiklejohn said police arrived at the property about 7 p.m. that night and located a muddy area that looked like it recently had been disturbed. After a cadaver dog was used to help pinpoint the area, investigators aerated the ground, and a "fatty substance" bubbled up to the surface.
After putting the site under guard, they returned the next morning and began excavating the area.
They initially began shoveling out the ground and sifting through it for evidence, but eventually an excavator had to be brought in. Underneath a large slab of rock, investigators found 14 large garbage bags containing human remains. On top of one of them they found a human arm, said the sergeant.
The bags were sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston, he said.
Once there, Dr. Jennifer Hammers, a forensic pathologist, examined the remains.
She told the jury Thursday that all three of the men had been dismembered -- their heads, arms and legs removed from their torsos -- and that Frampton and Chadwell had long deep wounds running up their midsections. All three had been shot. Glasser had three bullet wounds, Frampton had five and Chadwell had two gunshot wounds. The men had stab wounds on various parts of their bodies. Frampton had a wound so deep in his back it had cut his spinal cord. They also showed signs of blunt force trauma.
Hammers said because of the variety of wounds and the level of decomposition she was unable to say with certainty which of the injuries actually killed the men. She said she listed the cause of death as "homicidal violence," and listed the contributing wounds.
Under cross-examination by Hall's attorney, Alan J. Black, Hammers said she was unable to say which of the wounds were made before or after death. She said this too was due to the decomposition.
Thursday also saw testimony about a car prosecutors allege Hall and his codefendants used to move the bodies that Casey admitted helping to bury at Cole's property on Aug. 29, 2011.
According to Henry Sayer, the owner of a Lanesborough salvage yard on Potter Mountain Road, Hall brought a gold-colored Buick to be junked that afternoon.
Casey testified Wednesday that this was the car in which the men's remains had been kept before they were buried.
Jason Hassan Sr., who was the Sayers employee who handled the transaction, said the Buick's dashboard had been stripped, the front seat was soaked in water and "the back seat was missing -- no rugs in the back at all. ... It was down to the bare metal." The trunk likewise was down to the bare metal, he told the jury.
He said the car seemed to be running OK.
Under cross-examination, Hassan said he had never seen the Buick before and didn't know what its condition was before being brought in.
The hood was bent up a little and the front fender was dinged, he says.
He said it's not unusual to take the seats out of a car before being scrapped and that Hall had done business there before.
The trial continues Friday morning.
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