Southern Alberta Newspapers
A DNA collection and forensic expert took to the stand Jan. 12 to share lab results with the court on the fourth day of the second-degree murder trial of Deborah Belyea, who stands accused of the homicide of her husband Alfred.
Laura Reader joined the court via web camera to share the results of three reports she authored containing lab results of evidence related to the trial from the RCMP National Forensics Laboratory in Edmonton.
Reader’s reports provided the court information on each DNA profile that could be found from examining evidence obtained from the crime scene in Piapot, Sask., as well as evidence seized from Belyea’s friend, Shandel Dupal, and evidence found at Belyea’s Suffield home.
Reader explained that a DNA profile represents the number of short strands of DNA forensic scientists can match from a known DNA sample. Court learned the accuracy of the results are almost 100 per cent conclusive as every person has a different DNA profile.
The first report Reader presented to court contained DNA evidence obtained from Belyea’s vehicle – a Volkswagen Golf – a garbage bag seized by Medicine Hat police and articles of evidence RCMP collected at the crime scene near Piapot.
The first report showed Alfred’s DNA was discovered in Belyea’s vehicle on the steering wheel, on the garbage bin his body was discovered in, on a roll of duct tape found in Piapot, as well as on a pair of jeans and a cardigan found in a garbage bag, which Belyea is said to have given to Dupal.
Alfred was the only name used by Reader in her testimony, however another DNA profile found within the evidence was presented as D.B. and is confirmed to be from a female.
In the first report the DNA profile of the unnamed female was also discovered on the steering wheel, a pair of shoes from Belyea’s house, on the handle of the garbage bin the deceased was discovered in, as well as in a biological sample of a pair of jeans and cardigan from the garbage bag given to Dupal.
In the third report Reader presented that Alfred’s DNA was found on a Tupperware lid, a blue area mat and rope that was wrapped around his body – all items found at the crime scene south of Piapot.
The DNA profile of the unnamed female was also found on the rope wrapped around Alfred’s body.
During a cross examination, defence counsel discovered the lab results from a DNA analysis cannot be used to show the age of an individual.
Crown prosecutor Jase Cowan also called RCMP forensic identification specialist Cpl. Tommy Thifault to provide a testimony. Thifault was involved in gathering and preserving forensic evidence at the crime scene in Piapot.
Thifault provided the court details on how RCMP forensics and major crimes units process and preserve evidence using a sterile process that involves wearing two layers of gloves and replacing the top layer every time a new piece of evidence is processed, as well as using sterile tarps to further process evidence and take photographs on scene.
As well, Thifault provided details on how RCMP test for human blood at a crime scene by using an OTBI testing system. Similar to a COVID testing system, an OTBI testing system uses a dip stick to obtain a swab sample of material to be tested. Thifault said RCMP use this test when they suspect human blood is present at a crime scene.
During the investigation Thifault said he tested a garbage bag oozing with red liquids that was found near an out building where Alfred’s body was discovered. He also obtained swabs from the garbage bin and a roll of duct tape found near the body at the scene.
During cross examination the court was told the presence of weasel, badger or horse blood can taint the results of an ORBI test.
Thifault also noted the tire tracks found at the crime scene in Piapot that lead to the location Alfred’s body was discovered looked like they came from a sedan, SUV or utility trailer.
The court learned Thifault also took forensic photos during the autopsy.
The trial continued Jan. 15 in Courtroom No. 4 at the Court of King’s Bench in Medicine Hat.