The first witness for the state this morning was Dr. Matthias I. Okoye. Dr. Okoye is a practicing physician and lawyer, and the director of the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Sciences, Inc., and Nebraska Forensic Medical Services, P.C. In addition, he is an associate professor of forensic pathology at Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska. He is also an adjunct professor of forensic medicine and pathology at several universities abroad. Dr. Okoye is a consultant forensic pathologist for the State of Nebraska’s Attorney General's Office, and serves as a coroner’s physician and forensic pathologist for Lancaster County, Nebraska, as well as, for several other counties in Nebraska. (http://www.
Aside from his impressive credentials, Dr. Okoye's testimony declared the cause and the manner of death for Catherine Beard. He said her death was a homicide and caused by blunt force trauma to the head and torso. He also mentioned sharp impact stab wounds to Beard's back, rib cage and pelvic region, which also contributed to her death. Okoye believed it was more than likely Beard bled to death because of all of the above wounds. The death cannot be ruled accidental, because of the sharp force wounds to the back and pelvic area. When asked if Beard could have been struck by a vehicle, Dr. Okoye clearly stated, “Absolutely not,” contradicting a theory posited by the defense.
The next witness was Michael Hooper of Topeka KS, an ex reporter of the Grand Island Independent. Hooper interviewed Oldson, in tandem with the late Jim Helm, a former editor from Ord. The interview took place on November 30th, 1992, and was tape recorded. Hooper brought a transcript of that interview. State attorney O'Brien asked Hooper to read highlighted portions to the jury including Helms asking Oldson how he got into this mess. Oldson replied, “Wrong place, wrong time.” Hooper asked Oldson if this was a game of chess to him and Oldson said yes. Helms next question was Have you been framed? Oldson states, “I would say framed. I'm the most likely suspect to disprove or prove.” Oldson felt at the time of the interview that all of the evidence was circumstantial. “I am smarter than law enforcement, too damn smart for you. I'm not going to apologize about my intelligence.” Oldson said.
The last witness before noon break was Dee Petska, who testified last week. Petska you may recall, was the person who found the skull fragment in April of 1992, southeast of Ord on her relative's property. Petska was asked about a time after the discovery when she, her husband at the time and three of her children went out to the site. An older car came up the minimum maintenance road where they were at and it was Oldson, his wife Minnie, Minnie's two daughters and another woman. (This woman was identified in her own testimony yesterday as Marcella Jorgensen of St Paul NE) The only thing Petska witnessed was John Oldson standing at the fence and pointing to the site where Beard's remains were found.
With the state almost finished presenting their case to convict Oldson of Felony murder, two more witnesses needed to be called after lunch break. Ex Valley County Sheriff “Woody” Woodgate was recalled to the stand. Woodgate was asked to confirm the journals taken into evidence back in 1990 while Oldson was serving his sentence at the Valley county jail. The jury was given a special instruction by Judge Noakes to read the excerpts...the journals were edited for this purpose and shown on 3 different monitors. Although it was difficult to read from the courtroom, certain wording could be read, including Oldson's referral to Beard as, “The missing one” or CB. Oldson also details his dislike of then Valley county attorney Greg Jensen, even going to far as stating that he (Oldson) tested Jensen's intelligence and Oldson believed Jensen was an idiot.
Defense attorney Sarah Newell repeatedly objected to the journals and their potential to influence the jury. Several trips have been made to judges chambers to argue this point.
The states final witness was Captain Matthew Hunter, Clay County Sheriff in Missouri. Oldson was held in the Clay County jail after he was caught with the collaboration between Valley County Sheriff Casey Hurlburt and the Clay county sheriff's office to arrange the arrest. Oldson was taken into custody on January 25, 2012. Three CD's were brought into evidence and played for the jury. These were conversations between Oldson, Karen his wife is briefly on the recording and Oldson's mother Anne Rasmussen. All visitations are recorded at the Clay County jail. The culmination of the conversation's was Oldson talking about how DNA evidence has changed and how they must have something on him now.