Apparent drag marks on the sweatpants homicide victim Charlene Hummert was wearing when her body was found consisted of soil that's identical to the soil in the victim's own driveway, according to an international forensic expert.
Skip Palenik, founder and president of Microtrace LLC in Elgin, Ill., told jurors he's a forensic chemical microscopist who's been peering through microscopes for 57 years, since he was 8 years old.
He's worked on a number of high-profile cases in the United States and abroad, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber bombings, the JonBenet Ramsey murder and the Green River serial-killer murders.
Palenik testified Friday afternoon at the first-degree murder retrial of Brian David Hummert, 55,
Police allege Brian Hummert ambushed his wife of 22 years from behind in their home the night of March 19, 2004, and strangled her with a plastic-coated metal cable that was part of a dog-leash contraption the Hummerts used for their pit bull.
He is accused of redressing 48-year-old Charlene, dragging her body out to her Land Rover, then driving it to Giant Food Store in Fairview Township and leaving it there.
'Identical': Fairview Township Police sent Palenik Charlene Hummert's sweatpants for analysis as well as other samples, including one from the Hummert driveway.
Palenik testified he was able to match the soil from the driveway to soil recovered from the victim's sweatpants.
"The soils were identical in all respects" and were remarkable for their "incredible variety of minerals," he said.
The two soil samples also shared three manmade particles: carborundum (found in some sandpapers), magnetite spheres (a byproduct of welding, torch-cutting and grinding) and "a big healthy amount of rust," Palenik said.
The Hummerts' son, David Hummert, previously testified
Palenik said that in his decades of examining soil samples, he's never before seen that combination of minerals and manmade particles.
"This is just a highly unlikely combination of materials," he said.
DNA match: Also on Friday, state police DNA expert Angelina Biondi testified DNA found on the external genitalia of Charlene Hummert, as well as on the underpants she was wearing when her body was discovered, match Brian Hummert's DNA.
After the slaying, Brian Hummert told investigators he and his wife hadn't had sex in a couple months.
He made the same statement to several of his former co-workers both before and after his wife was killed, according to their testimony.
Jurors also heard from Paul Daube, a forensic scientist and now-retired manager of the state police crime lab in Harrisburg. He also compared the driveway soil to the sweatpants soil and found them to be microscopically similar, he said.
Nail marks? Perhaps the most interesting portion of Daube's testimony wasn't discussed aloud.
One of the evidentiary items he examined in 2004 was the red plastic-coated cable seized from the Hummert home. Daube said he checked Charlene Hummert's fingernail clippings, but found no bits of red plastic on them.
As he spoke, jurors were shown a close-up photo of the cable. Visible on it were several fingernail-shaped marks imbedded in the plastic.
Daube didn't mention them, and chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker didn't ask about them.
Outside the courtroom Barker said he's willing to talk about the marks, but not until Hummert's trial ends.
Stalker issue: It appears jurors won't hear the allegation that shortly before her death Charlene Hummert concluded the person who "stalked" her in 2001 and 2002 was her husband.
Court documents filed in April 2004 noted the victim's close friend, Ron Killins, told police Charlene confided to him she'd discovered some of the "stalker" photographs in her husband's computer, making her decide he was the stalker.
Barker confirmed Killins died of cancer. That was in June 2007, according to his obituary.
Jurors are, however, expected to hear from computer and forensic experts that the "stalker" letters and photos were found on Brian Hummert's computer.
Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Monday.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.