Some DNA results were definitive and others were inconclusive, according to testimony Friday in the sexual assault and murder case against Benjamin Taylor.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. on Monday in the court of Jackson County Circuit Judge Craig Tatterson.
Taylor, 34, of Cottageville, is accused of raping 10-month-old Emmaleigh Elizabeth Barringer sometime overnight between Oct. 2 and Oct. 3, 2016, at 8 Meadowlark Lane, in the basement of a government-assisted unit in the Rolling Meadows Village Apartments in Fairplain.
Led by Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Katie Franklin, the state also alleges that Taylor caused the head injuries that contributed to Barringer’s eventual death. Barringer died of blunt-force trauma, exacerbated by vaginal blood loss, Oct. 5, 2016, at Charleston Area Medical Center.
After witnesses for the prosecution testified about DNA evidence and calls made by Taylor from jail, the state rested its case Friday afternoon, paving the way for attorney Tim Rosinsky to begin presenting Taylor’s defense. Rosinsky called several witnesses, including a neighbor who lived in the apartment next door and a character witness who described Taylor as someone who wasn’t capable of committing the crimes alleged by police.
David Miller is a forensic scientist with the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory. He processed and conducted some preliminary testing on samples taken from the basement of the apartment. Angela Gill is a DNA analyst with the WVSP Laboratory. She conducted DNA testing on samples processed by Miller. They testified back-to-back in the DNA portion of the prosecution’s case Friday morning.
Miller said he tested items merely for the presence of biological matter. He did not conduct DNA analysis of any of the samples to determine who the fluids belonged to; that is the job of a separate department at the WVSP Forensic Laboratory, he said.
Miller said numerous stains found around the basement, including stains on the floor and on a utility sink, tested positive for blood. Gill testified that the blood on the edge and faucet of the sink belonged to Barringer, as did blood stains found on the floor.
One of the items Miller tested was a diaper that contained stains that, according to Miller, tested positive for the presence of blood and semen. Gill said the results of her DNA sperm analysis on the diaper were inconclusive. She could not confirm that it belonged to Taylor, nor could she rule him out.
The jeans Taylor was wearing when he was arrested also contained traces of blood and seminal fluid, Miller said on the witness stand. Gill testified that Taylor’s semen and Barringer’s blood were found on the jeans. Rosinsky argued that testing a person’s pants for their own DNA is likely to produce a match under most circumstances.
Miller also tested swabs taken from a sexual assault examination conducted on Barringer at Charleston Area Medical Center. Miller said that although the swabs from her vagina did not test positive for seminal fluid, the samples were forwarded for further DNA analysis.
Gill said her tests from samples taken from Barringer’s vagina were inconclusive. She said male DNA was present, but she could not identify whose it was.
“With it (the sample) being partial, a low-level, and a mixture, we cannot discern whether he (Taylor) is there or isn’t,” Gill said.
Gill testified that the blood on Taylor's chest and abdomen belonged to the victim. Rosinsky said such DNA transference could have happened a number of ways. The blood could have gotten onto Taylor’s torso simply by picking her up, he said. In his questioning, Rosinsky pointed out that the victim’s mother, Amanda Adkins, was observed to have blood on her from holding the injured baby, but it was never sampled for testing.
None of the state’s DNA evidence confirms that the samples came from Taylor, except where it was found in his own jeans, Rosinsky said.
In addition to presenting its DNA evidence, Franklin and the prosecution played recordings of Taylor’s phone calls from the South Central Regional Jail, where he has been incarcerated since his arrest on Oct. 3, 2016.
In one of the calls, Taylor tells the unidentified person on the other end of the line that he “did do something bad” but didn’t assault Barringer.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t molest that child. I did do something bad, but I didn’t molest her,” Taylor said on the recording.
On another recording, Taylor could be heard saying the charges against him do not match his actions.
“I’m not afraid to take my punishment for what I’ve done, but what I’m charged with isn’t what I should be charged with,” he said on the second recording.
On the third recording, Taylor can be heard speculating about possible evidence against him. The call centered around a discussion about the donation of Barringer’s organs.
“The reason why I think that’s a good thing is because they don’t have that much evidence,” he says on the recording.
Rosinsky’s first witness for the defense was Barbara Kay, a former neighbor of Adkins’. She lived at 9 Meadowlark Lane at the time of the assault on Barringer. Kay testified that she did not believe the apartment complex was a high-crime area and felt it was safe enough for her grandchildren to play outside.
On the night of the assault, Kay testified, she had just gone to bed when she heard a baby screaming in the apartment next door. Kay said it sounded like the baby was on the top level of the apartment, not in the basement.
The screaming was loud enough that Kay got out of bed to call 911. She opted not to make the call, though, because the child stopped screaming after about 30 seconds.
“What I first thought was that it had fallen out of the crib,” Kay said.
On cross-examination, Franklin pointed out that Adkins had other children, including a child who was 23 months old at the time.
“I could tell it was a baby – I had four,” Kay said. “I know the difference between a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old.”
Franklin also asked Kay why she never gave this information to the police.
“I don’t go out of my way to get involved in other peoples’ affairs,” Kay said.
The second witness for the defense was Tammy Ramsey, a lifelong friend of Taylor’s. She testified that Taylor was not a violent individual, and she trusts him enough that she would allow him to be near her children even now.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Ramsey said. “He wouldn’t hesitate to help somebody.”