A forensic pathologist testifying for the defense told jurors Wednesday there was not enough blood at a Jeannette murder scene for the victim to have died there from blood loss.
“I don’t think, looking at those scene photographs, that there was nearly enough blood” to cause the death of Khalil Parker, 19, said Dr. Lindsey Thomas. “There wasn’t a bucket of blood anywhere or a huge pool of blood.”
Thomas’ testimony came on the fifth day of a first-degree murder trial for Crystal Belle, 39, who is accused in Parker’s death. Prosecutors allege she beat her boyfriend with a snow shovel and wooden plank during a violent confrontation in the South Seventh Street home they shared for three months.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial that Parker, who died June 11, 2016, had more than 100 different injuries all over his body that caused him to bleed to death.
Belle maintains Parker suffered his injuries during rough consensual sex and that she grew enraged when he became even more violent during the sexual encounter.
Thomas disagreed with Wecht’s conclusion. She was provided case materials by the defense, including crime scene photographs and the autopsy report, to review.
“I’m really not sure what his cause of death was,” Thomas testified.
It was a bloody crime scene, she said, but she couldn’t conclude that blood loss caused Parker’s death, rather pointing to a possible heart issue. Belle told investigators Parker collapsed in her home after getting into a fight elsewhere, but investigators found no blood evidence outside.
“I just don’t think he lost that much blood,” Thomas testified.
Investigators say they found blood throughout the house. Knotted shoe laces were tied to furniture and a bed, where large blood stains were discovered. The shovel was discovered in multiple pieces in two separate rooms. Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday afternoon.
Parker’s mother, Candice Parker of Glassport, testified that something about the relationship between Belle and her son seemed off. After Khalil Parker moved in with Belle, he visited his mother less frequently.
“I would talk to him every day, but he never came back down after that,” Candice Parker testified.
At a funeral for a family member, he seemed to be withdrawn and she noticed blood on the collar of his dress shirt and scratches on his body.
“Crystal said ‘It was a disagreement, it’ll never happen again,’” Candice Parker testified. “He got really defensive with me about her.”
Investigators said Belle initially told police she was going to the hospital with Parker after she called 911 when he was unresponsive, but she never showed up. During the 911 call that was played for jurors, Belle could be heard breathing heavily and telling a dispatcher: “He’s not breathing.”
Westmoreland County Detective Ray Dupilka testified that he spent a month trying to get in touch with Belle but couldn’t until July 14, 2016, when she called him to surrender at a bus station in Pittsburgh. After that 911 call, Dupilka testified, Belle turned off her phone.
A current Westmoreland County Prison inmate told jurors differing stories about their time with Belle.
Julie Thomas of New Stanton testified that she talked to Belle a couple times when they were both at the jail earlier this year.
“She told me a story about how (Parker) was cheating on her and he wanted to leave her and she didn’t want that to happen,” Thomas testified. “She struck him with the shovel, got control of him, tied him up. She tortured him, beat him with things for a couple days.”
Thomas said she passed the information on to Dupilka, who visited the jail to talk to her about an unrelated case.
But Ashley Waterloo, who shared a jail cell with Belle for six months in 2018, told jurors Belle never talked about her case or herself.
“Not a single discussion,” Waterloo said.