Medical examiner testifies in Thomas Lee Johnson murder trial
October 3, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Jury members in the first-degree murder trial of Thomas Lee Johnson heard testimony from a medical examiner Monday, who presented details about the death of Lori Bases, whose body was discovered in a Steamboat Springs residence in the early-morning hours of May 12, 2000.
Dr. Ben Galloway, who conducted Bases' autopsy May 13, 2000, said Bases died from excessive blood loss caused by wounds she suffered to her chest, neck and lower back. He described two stab wounds to the front of her heart and one to the back of her heart, as well as slash and stab wounds to her back that penetrated her abdominal cavity.
"Her aorta was also cut; it was transected, which means it was divided in two," Galloway said. "This was a serious injury, too."
The injury that caused the greatest loss of blood, Galloway said, was a slash wound to Bases' neck that severed her esophagus and was most likely inflicted by her attacker from behind.
Questioned by Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Brown, Galloway said Bases was not sexually assaulted. He also confirmed that toxicology reports showed Bases' blood had 7 milligrams of alcohol in about 100 cubic centimeters of blood, which, he added, equated to drinking less than a beer. The report also indicated trace amounts of cocaine in her system.
On cross examination by defense attorney Erin Wilson, Galloway was questioned about the type of instrument that would have been used to inflict the injuries suffered by Bases, and Galloway said it was hard to answer those questions, because a murder weapon had never been found.
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"It's difficult to discuss something when you don't have the object," Galloway said.
He did tell the jury, under questioning by Wilson, that the wounds on Bases' chest varied in length from 1/4 of an inch to 1 1/2 inches and in depth from 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. He also described the neck wound as being 7 inches long and 1 1/4 inches deep.
"There are many variables, so it's hard to make clear-cut statements about the weapon," Galloway said.
Wilson also asked Galloway to confirm that Bases was conscious when the injuries were inflicted and that she had no broken bones in her face, had not been strangled and had not suffered wounds consistent with a taser. Galloway answered "correct" to each question.
Court adjourned at 4 p.m. with Judge Michael O'Hara giving the jury some specific instructions.
"You heard some hard technical terms today, and the witness (Galloway) tried to provide definitions," O'Hara said. "I ask you to please resist the temptation to research what the words meant."
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, and the prosecution is expected to rest its case about noon.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen said he intends to play a two-hour videotaped interview with Johnson for the jury. The interview was conducted by Steamboat Springs police officers June 21, 2000, in Fulsom, California.
The defense will begin presenting its case Tuesday afternoon.