In this section we shall address all apparent evidence of a sexual assault as it pertains to this case.
The article is broken into 4 parts for the ease of reading.
Part 1: The Semen Stain- A look into biological evidence found at the scene.
Part 2: The Dilation- A look into the evidence of sodomy.
Part 3: The Sexual Injuries- Autopsy evidence, suggestive of a sex crime.
Part 4: The Bindings- Detailing the sexual aspect of the bindings.
Part 1: The Semen Stain
Kermit Channell would state the following in court, concerning the pants of one of the boys.
Fogleman: Alright. And what uh – now I believe you indicated that you ran tests for blood on these items and I’m sure you’ve said it, but what were the results of those tests as far as blood?
Channell: Uh – they were negative.
Fogleman: Alright. And then did you uh – and what was the other type of test or what other item were you looking for?
Channell: I examined these items for the presence of semen.
Fogleman: Alright. And what type of test did you run for that?
Channell: The first test that I used is basically a screening tool. I laid the clothing out and because of the nature of the clothing, uh – being very dirty and soiled, I used a laser, which emits an ultraviolet light, which helps to pick up any possible stains that you might not be able to see uh – with the unaided eye. I did find some areas. I made cuttings of those areas and then further tested them for the presence of acid phosphatase. Acid phosphatase is an enzyme which is found in semen. Uh – it is also found in other items, for instance blood. But however, it is not in the same quantities. We can not quantitate the amount of acid phosphatase present, therefore we use it again as a screening tool to tell you whether or not there could be semen present. I then took those cuttings and took an extract from those cuttings and looked microscopically to see if I could identify any sperm cells present, which I could not on either pair. I further examined those cuttings for the presence of what is termed P30, which is a prostatic antigen which is specific to the male prostate. In this examination, uh – I did have some positive controls along with my cutting samples, which indicated to me that there could be some interaction with the material that was hindering me with getting a proper answer, uh – therefore, I had to conclude that I could not determine based on my testing that semen was present and because of that reason, I then took those cuttings and submitted them also to Genetic Design where they could employ DNA testing, which is far more sensitive then my testing.
Fogleman: Alright. Let me ask you this, how many screening tests did you run on the pants or the cuttings, either one? For semen I mean.
Channell: Actually, I ran the laser as a screening test and also the acid phosphatase as a screening.
Fogleman: And on those two screening tests, uh – what was the reaction?
Channell: Uh – these reactions were positive.
Fogleman: Positive for what?
Channell: Uh – for those specific screening tests. What we employed those screening tests for – for instance, if one screening test is positive that lets us continue with our testing. If it however was negative, then we would stop with the analysis at that point.
Fogleman: And so, both tests were positive as a screening test for the presence of semen?
Channell: That’s correct.
According to this, there was possible evidence of semen present on the clothing of one of the victims.
Michael DeGuglielmo would also testify about the semen.
17 Q. From all of that, what can we conclude about the source of
18 the DNA or possible source of the DNA in the two cuttings from
19 these pants?
20 A. What I know from those two particular items, is that we did
21 obtain a small amount of DNA, basically a threshold amount for
22 our testing. The testing that we use is specific for human or
23 higher primate. By that I mean there is some cross reactivity
24 between higher primates as far as the DNA sequences. Human
25 beings, gorillas, chimpanzees and great apes will have some
1 similarity in the actual DNA sequence. Because of that, they
2 are not just human specific, but we know that the DNA that we
3 detected is from the source of a higher primate.
4 The other thing is that the small amount of DNA we
5 detected were present in the male or sperm portions of the
6 extraction which would be indicative of the DNA having come from
7 a sperm origin.
So, the strong implication seemed to be that there was semen on a pair of pants.
Channell would also testify that the water from the ditch had destroyed much of the DNA evidence such as any trace of semen that there might have been.
Fogleman: Alright. And um – in regard to these pants and all the other items that you examined, what effect if any does uh – an item of evidence being in water have on your ability to find items?
Channell: Uh – being uh – wet, especially being say, submerged in the water, or even being dirty or soiled has a very detrimental effect on any type of biological materials that you might find. Being in the water can make it virtually impossible at times to identify any type of material.
Fogleman: Okay. And uh – does cold water as opposed to hot water have any particular effect on blood in particular?
Channell: I believe with uh – there are some studies with one versus the other, but uh – regardless of water temperature, still it will deteriorate the sample.
So there was some possible semen present at the scene. This would would be a key indicator that there was sexual activity between the killer(s) and the victims. It would be difficult to prove however as Channell would also state.
Fogleman: What uh – is the effect of a body being submerged in water on your ability to find semen in the oral cavity?
Channell: Uh – being submitted – uh – being in the water would have a very detrimental effect. Uh – with uh – with the water, it will have a tendency to flush out anything that could be there and very much hinder any identification that we can make.
If it was there, which it seemed to be, it was completely destroyed by water.
Part 2: Dilation
During the autopsies it was noted that the anuses of the boys had been dilated, a sign of possible sodomy.
This being from Stevie Branch’s autopsy.
Genital/Anal Area Injuries:
The anus was dilated. No injuries were noted. The anal and rectal mucosa showed mild hyperemia, but no evidence of injury.
Stevie showed signs of dilation, but no obvious sign of injury. The evidence of dilation could mean that Stevie was sodomized, however it’s difficult to say for sure, because there was no visible injury present. An argument put on by defense experts has been that the dilation was caused solely by the bodies being in the water, and not sexual assault.
This next one is from Chris Byers’ autopsy.
Genital and Anal Injuries:
The anal orifice was markedly dilated. Examination of the rectal and anal mucosa showed them to be diffusely hyperemic and injected. There were no injuries present.
Again there was dilation, but no obvious injuries.
This would be Michael Moore’s findings.
The penis was circumcised and showed no injuries. The anus was dilated and showed no external evidence of injury. Mud and debris was present in the anal orifice. Subsequent autopsy demonstrated no internal injuries noted to the scrotum or testes. The mucosal surfaces of the rectum were slightly hyperemic and showed no evidence of injury.
Just like the others he had dilation, and all three victims had evidence of dilation present.
Peretti would say this on the dilation in a phone call.
DR: I .. no. I did not say that. I did not say that. I told him that he asked me about anuses. I told him that anuses on two of the kids were dilated and it could happen one of three ways; probably due to the bodies being in the water, it could be done by certain foreign objects into the rectum or a small penis. He asked me if there were any injuries. I said there were no injuries surrounding the anus. That’s what I told him.
He would suggest that based on the dilation alone he couldn’t say if the victims had been sodomized or not, but he suggested three ways that could leave them this way, including an object, or a small penis as a possibility. The men convicted for the crime were teenagers, so the possibility of a small penis could be valid.
He would also make this statement.
There was no unusual injury to the anal area. But because of the the
combination of the bodies being found nude and being hogtied together with some of the other injuries suggested ‘at least in some part’ a sexual assault.
Part 3: The Sexual Injuries
From the autopsy it noted numerous injuries and mutilations to Christopher Byers’ genital region.
The skin of the penis, scrotal sac and testes were missing. There was a large gaping defect measuring 2 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch. The shaft of the penis was present and measured 2 inches in length. The gaping defect was surrounded by multiple and extensive irregular punctate gouging type injuries measuring from 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch and had a depth of penetration of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. Some of these wounds showed hemorrhage in the underlying soft tissue, others did not. In between the thighs there were multiple areas of yellow abrasions with skin slippage. The medial aspect of the left thigh showed a yellow abrasion.
If this act was committed by the killer, which seems to be more than likely, then that in itself would be considered a sexual act. By specifically focusing on the genitals, and trying to remove them entirely it shows a sexual nature in this crime. From these injuries it was like someone laid on top of the boy and stabbed and cut him repeatedly in the groin region as if there was a struggle between the victim and killer. It appeared as if they had tried to remove the entire genitals by cutting around them, and then tried to pull them off. This removed the testicles, but the penis was degloved, removing only the external portions of it and leaving behind the internal muscle structure.
Moving on to Stevie Branch, he also had a strange injury to his genitals.
The mid shaft of the penis to include the glans was diffusely red-purple with overlying very fine superficial scratches. There was a clear band of demarcation at the mid shaft which showed that the proximal portion was uninvolved.
Something had obviously been done to the boy’s genitals based on this injury.
This a diagram of a penis from a medical website:
Using this diagram we can see a rough example of the injury to Stevie’s genitals.
Testimony from the medical examiner would also suggest that maybe the victims had been forced to perform oral sex.
Davis: Doctor, in your experience as a medical examiner when you see injuries to the ears and injuries to the inside surface of the mouth, what does that indicate to you in a person that’s eight years old and has died this type of death?
Peretti: Well, there’s a number of possibilities but commonly when we see the ears contused on both sides or bruised with all lying fine linear scratches…
Stidham: Your Honor, I’m going to object. May I approach the bench?
The Court: [unintelligible] Well, rephrase your question. I think that is probably overbroad.
Davis: Doctor, let me ask you, have you seen–in your past experenience as a medical examiner, have you seen similar injuries to the ears of children?
Peretti: Yes, I have.
Davis: Okay. And in those cases were they frequently also accompanied by injuries to the child’s mouth?
Peretti: Yes, they were.
Davis: Okay. And based on your past experience and expertise and training, do those type injuries indicate to you, based on your expertise and training, a particular type trauma that has occurred to cause those injuries?
Peretti: Well, my practice these type injuries I have seen in children that are held by the ears who are forced to perform oral sex. They can also be due to putting a hand over the mouth to cause the injuries to the mucosal surface of the lips or they could be by grabbing someone by the ear.and just pulling.
Davis: And there were injuries consistent with that found in your autopsy on Michael Moore, is that correct?
Peretti: Yes, that’s correct.
These injuries also possibly could have been caused by someone trying to cover the mouth of the victim in some way.
Part 4: The Bindings
In a memo from defense investigator, Ron Lax, it stated that Lax had contacted a forensics expert named Chris Sperry as to the motivation of this case.
Sperry would tell Lax, that based on the way the victims were found tied, he believed the motive was sexual.
It made no sense for the defense to insist that the boys weren’t the victim’s of some kind of sexual assault, as the way they were found was completely unnecessary to the commission of the crime–it was completely unnecessary act, to strip the victims naked and bind them in the manner that they were.
In fact the manner used in the bindings are typical of rapes and is often used in BDSM. The victims were technically hogtied, but not in a typical fashion. Instead they were bent over with their hands bound to their corresponding ankle, rather than tying the hands and feet together, causing their legs to be forcibly spread.
Here’s a youtube video demonstrating this same position as a sexual pose common in the bondage community.
Now the defense would have us believe that there was no assault, but let’s frame a picture here. The victims are found naked in a hogtied fashion. They had been stripped by their killer. If this wasn’t sexual why strip the boys naked? Not only that, but if this wasn’t sexual, why tie the boys up in a sexual manner? That in and of itself seems odd. Why strip the victims naked, and tie them in this way? They were bound not with their feet tied together, but in a way that would force their legs to remain spread, and in a bent over position, hands to ankles.
If one couples this with the possible semen, and the fact that the anuses of the victims all appear dilated. It seems more suggestive of sodomy, and sexual assault.
We also know that one of the boys, Christopher Byers was missing his genitals. If this act was done by his killer(s), this would mean he was sexually mutilated. To further add to this, there was also apparent genital injuries found on Stevie’s body. These items all seem to accumulate and increase the likelihood that the victims had something sexual done to them.
From all of this we can say that it was more than likely that the victims were sexually assaulted.