There’s no evidence a knife was placed in a dead woman’s hand after she was killed by a former Mountie, a forensic expert told a B.C. Supreme Court murder trial.
Lynn Kalmring’s left hand remained in place from the moment she collapsed until police found her, forensic pathologist Dr. John Butt told a Kelowna, B.C., jury trial on Wednesday.
Testifying on behalf of Keith Wiens, the former RCMP officer accused of Kalmring’s murder, Butt said that the discolouration of the woman’s left palm shows no evidence that someone put a kitchen knife in her hand after Wiens shot her dead.
Butt said he based his findings on the science of lividity, a natural occurrence within the human body after death. The blood gravitates to the lowest parts of the body over several hours, creating a bluish hue to the skin, he said.
“The livid staining on the left palm developed from the onset and it continued to develop,” Butt told the court. “That the left hand was moved shortly after death cannot be sustained with the evidence at hand.”
The court already heard that Kalmring and Wiens had been arguing in their Penticton townhouse when she was killed on Aug. 16, 2011. The former officer called 911 and told the operator he shot his wife.
In earlier testimony, Wiens told the court she attacked him with the knife and he shot her point blank.
The Crown alleges he moved the body and placed the knife in her hand to make it look like he was defending himself.
Butt’s opinion contradicts the Crown and Penticton, B.C., pathologist Dr. William Currie, who testified last week that the lividity showed someone put the knife in Kalmring’s hand after she fell and died. He noted the way the blood settled suggested someone had turned her hand over.
“She died with the palm of her hand downwards, not upwards,” Currie said.
Butt was chief coroner and chief medical examiner for the province of Alberta in the 1970s. He was in charge of the mortuary that processed the bodies of all 229 killed in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 near Nova Scotia in 1998.
Butt said he based his conclusions on photos taken of Kalmring’s body nine hours after her death and of the autopsy three days later. He said no one could conclude her hand was moved during the 40 minutes that followed her death before police arrived.
It takes at least an hour before lividity becomes observable, Butt said. The back of her hand and the wrist showed no evidence of livid stains, which one would expect if they were turned over soon after death.
When police found Kalmring, her left palm faced up with her fingers loosely holding the knife in the downward position. Currie said it looked like it had been “staged.”
Currie said he found lividity in the palm and, to a lesser degree, the back of Kalmring’s hand, suggesting blood flowed to the back of the hand after it was moved. He dismissed the suggestion the palm could have faced up the whole time.
Butt said the darker colour on the back of Kalmring’s hand was likely a suntan. He chastised Currie for failing to take notes after he viewed the body at the scene.
“It’s extraordinary that one wouldn’t do that,” Butt said.