Victim died fighting attacker in Thief River Falls murder
Day two of Jedidiah Troxel’s murder trial began with the defense grilling the investigator who oversaw the crime scene where Tanya Kazmierczak’s body was found, and ended with graphic details and photos from the autopsy performed by Dr. Michael McGee, head of the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.
McGee shared his findings with the jury, some of whom looked away while others stared in shock at the autopsy photos that showed 37 stab wounds on Kazmierczak’s torso.
Troxel’s defense team of Kip Fontaine and Scott Collins declined to cross-examine McGee, the state’s top medical examiner. But that wasn’t the case for Patrick Warrick, a state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime scene investigator who led a team of agents on Aug. 26, 2012, when Kazmierczak’s body was found near the Smiley Bridge off Pennington County Road 7 southeast of Thief River Falls.
Warrick appeared comfortable when being questioned by Assistant State’s Attorney General Eric Schieferdecker, but the BCA veteran’s demeanor changed as Fontaine unleashed a barrage of questions in Judge Donald Aandal’s courtroom on Wednesday.
Most of Fontaine’s queries centered on the securing of evidence, especially Troxel’s car, which investigators say contained small amounts of Kazmierczak’s blood.
Fontaine also chided Warrick for not taking soil samples near Kazmierczak’s body and comparing them to mud found on a pair of boots investigators say Troxel was wearing at the time of the crime, implying the mud could have been from a different place on the Red Lake River.
Warrick said the BCA doesn’t have the capability to perform biological tests on soil, prompting Fontaine to say the FBI does.
“So you’re aware it could have been done,” Fontaine said of the soil testing.
“Yes, it could have been done,” Warrick said before being nearly cut off by Fontaine.
“But it wasn’t done.”
The exchange came toward the end of Warrick’s nearly three hours of testimony.
When it came to the processing of Kazmierczak’s body, and details of the autopsy, however, the only questions came from Assistant Attorney General John Gross.
McGee recited much of what he learned from the autopsy from memory, including Kazmierczak’s weight and height, and the number of wounds he found on her body. They include 37 stab wounds, 12 of which punctured through body tissue into her chest and abdominal cavities. Among them were eight in the center of Kazmierczak’s chest, eight more on the left side of her stomach and four to her neck just below a gash measuring about four inches, McGee said. She had also been beaten severely on her face, causing a black eye and significant bruising.
Kazmierczak died while attempting to fight off her attacker, McGee said, a conclusion reached by the defensive stab wounds found on her hands and forearms.
“She was alive, conscious and in all probability performing a purposeful action,” McGee said of Kazmierczak’s last, frantic moments. “This took a few minutes, I believe, for her (to die).”
Troxel, as he has had to do for dozens of pieces of evidence introduced in the past two days, approved each of the 28 autopsy photos that were shown to the jury.
Collins showed Troxel each picture and, for a few minutes, the sound of the pages falling in front of the 32-year-old Crookston man was the only noise that could be heard in the courtroom. Troxel looked at some, and focused his eyes on a notepad on which he was writing as others fell on the desk.
McGee said a knife similar to the one police seized from Troxel’s home could have caused the wounds on Kazmierczak’s body, but would not identify the hunting knife as the murder weapon.
The testimony was matter-of-fact and, for some members of the jury, visibly disturbing.
“Mrs. Kazmierczak had so many stab wounds I had to classify them by areas of her body,” McGee said.