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Experts: Schwenk's hand had gunshot residue, but his DNA was not on gun
In separate testimony on Tuesday, two expert witnesses said accused killer Christopher Lee Schwenk Jr. had gunshot residue on his hand but his DNA wasn't on a gun that fired a stray bullet that killed a bystander.
Schwenk, 26, of York City is standing trial in the York County Court of Common Pleas for first- and third-degree murder in the death of 49-year-old Monique Nixon. She was fatally struck by a bullet about a block from where it was fired in the city in 2013.
Stephanie Horner, a gunshot residue analyst with R.J. Lee Group, testified that she found gunshot residue on swabs of one of Schwenk's hands.
But during cross examination, defense attorney Sandra Thompson questioned the validity of gunshot residue evidence and also questioned how the residue can turn up on someone.
There are three ways gunshot residue can get onto someone: by the person firing a gun, coming into contact with someone who fired a gun or being near where a gun is fired by someone else, Horner said.
DNA: In separate testimony, Jillian Fesolovich, a forensic biologist with NMS Labs in Montgomery County, said Schwenk's DNA wasn't on the 9mm handgun that fired the fatal shot.
But, in testing that bars female DNA, Fesolovich said she couldn't exclude Schwenk as a possible source of male DNA found on the gun.
Ashley Rodriguez, who was with Schwenk the night of the killing and with whom he was in an on-again, off-again relationship, was a major source of DNA in swabs taken from the gun. Her DNA could have masked Schwenk's DNA, said Fesolovich, who also testified the gun was touched by someone who wasn't wearing gloves during testing.
Thompson's defense is that Rodriquez fired the gun, not Schwenk.
Nixon was about a half-block away from where Schwenk and another man, Eddie Gallon III, who was previously in a relationship with Rodriguez, were arguing at the intersection of South Queen Street and East Hope Avenue about 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2013, city police allege.
Police say Schwenk not only pulled out the gun and fired it, but he also attempted to pick up shell casings before running from the scene. Police found the gun and a sleeping Schwenk in Rodriguez's apartment in the 200 block of South Queen Street shortly after the shooting.
Sidebar showdown: Fesolovich's testimony was interrupted when Thompson questioned Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI's sustaining first assistant district attorney Jennifer Russell's objection over Thompson's line of questioning.
Kelley told Thompson to move on with other questions, to which Thompson said, "Are you cutting me off or can I ask a question?"
Kelley promptly called for a sidebar, which are used for the judge to address the prosecution and defense privately.
At times, Kelley's voice could be heard over the white noise played through the courtroom's audio system to drown out the conversation.
Following the terse sidebar, Thompson began to ask Fesolovich another question, but was quickly met with an objection from Russell, which brought a reply from Thompson that Kelley cut off.
Kelley then excused Fesolovich from the stand.
The trial resumes Wednesday.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.