By Clare Kennedy
Owatonna People's Press
OWATONNA -- A trail of blood stains on the gravel road leading to 19-year-old Kathryn Anderson's lifeless body may indicate that she was up and walking shortly before her death, and that she was perhaps hit by her own car, a witness for the prosecution in the murder trial of Ryan Hurd testified Friday.
Hurd, Anderson's boyfriend, boarded a bus for Tulsa on Dec. 3, 2009, shortly before Anderson was found in a ditch in rural Steele County, her body riddled with 109 separate stab wounds.
Earlier this week, the medical examiner testified that none of these wounds were immediately incapacitating. The cause of death was deemed to be blood loss and exposure. According to records provided by the National Weather Service, the temperature vacillated between 7 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit that night.
The bloody stains on the road stretch over a distance of about 133 feet, said Lindsey Garfield, a forensic scientist at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Garfield specializes in blood spatter analysis.
The scientists started west and worked their way east on the road, following a trail that began with a discarded Ugg slipper. The team paced from blood stain to blood stain, which appeared to move over an uneven trail that ran along the south edge of the road, then crossed into the middle of the road near her body. Another trail of stains were found slightly to the west of Anderson's final resting place, dipping back down to the south edge again.
The team submitted samples from each possible stain to a test using Phenolphthalein, a chemical that will turn pink if blood is present. The areas on the gravel road tested positive for blood. At that point, it was not possible to tell where the blood came from with any certainty. The swab will turn pink whether the blood is from a human or an animal. Only a DNA test could definitively tie the blood to Anderson, though there was no other obvious source.
From the patterns of blood on the road, Garfield concluded that Anderson had tried to flee, even in her weakened state.
"This blood was consistent with a person who was bleeding but ambulatory or moving down the road," Garfield told the jury.
Near the body, Garfield detected faint impressions on the grass that could be tire tracks, though no tread was visible. The team did not find a possible murder weapon at the scene, she said.
Next, the team inspected Anderson's apartment. A pan of food was on the stove, as if Anderson had been interrupted while cooking. Investigators also found her cell phone in the bottom drawer of a dresser in her closet.
The crime scene team looked for a knife that could have been the murder weapon. They found two, but both appeared to be clean.
"Basically, we were looking to see if any blood shed was there to indicate that a violent act had taken place there," Garfield told the jury.
They did not find evidence of a violent struggle at the apartment.
However, that was not the case when the team inspected Anderson's 1997 Ford Taurus. To an untrained eye, the car appeared clean, but Garfield and others found brown spots that tested positive for blood on the hood, the windshield, the wheel wells, the doors, some of the tires and much of the car's body.
Garfield also noted a tiny piece of transparent tissue affixed to a bolt that protruded from the undercarriage of the car.
"It appeared to me to be one of three things: Plant material, fabric, or a thin layer of skin," Garfield said.
Judging for the pattern of blood on the outside and undercarriage of the car, Garfield said she could draw two possible conclusions.
"Droplets of blood on the windshield and bumper could be consistent with the vehicle hitting a body with blood already flowing from it," Garfield said. "Or the stains could be from an act of stabbing offside from the vehicle."
If Anderson was struck by her own car, it would have been at a low speed, Garfield said. The car was not damaged by the impact, if one did occur.
The interior of the car showed no obvious blood stains. Garfield said it was possible that someone had attempted to clean the seats of blood, which would explain their seemingly pristine appearance.
The team applied luminol, a chemical that reacts with trace amounts of blood and causes it to glow in the dark. The luminol lit up areas on the passenger's seat, as well as the driver's side head rest, the steering wheel and floor beneath. On the outside, a substantial glow covered the hood and windshield on the passenger's side. The scientists also applied luminol to the trunk and discovered two blood stains in the carpeting there.
These areas later tested positive for the presence of blood. However, there were no other indications that the violence had occurred inside the car itself.
"Did you examine the vehicle's interior for slits or knife marks?" asked defense attorney Joel Eaton.
Garfield replied that they had, but could not find any.
The team did find some of Anderson's personal effects. Inside the car was Anderson's wallet, with a lanyard and key card. Anderson's driver's license was lodged between the console and the seat. Two yellow flip-flops sat on the passenger's side floor.
Clare Kennedy can be reached at 444-2376.