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Bloody prints tied to suspect in homicides

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - Updated: 5:30 PM

By HEATHER NELLIS

Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- A state police forensic scientist on Tuesday testified a bloody shoe print found at the crime scene of a March 2012 double homicide in Amsterdam was left by a sneaker recovered from the home of Ivan Ramos' wife.

Ronald Stanbro, who specializes in trace evidence, additionally told a Montgomery County jury that a piece of rubber found in Patrina Ramos' bedroom is an "exact" match to the defaced soles of those black Nike sneakers.

Ivan Ramos is currently on trial for allegedly stabbing Cheryl Goss and William McDermott to death in McDermott's Locust Avenue apartment on March 2, 2012. The sneakers and rubber fragment were seized during a search warrant executed that day at 222 Woodrow Road, the same location Ramos was initially picked up by police for questioning.

Investigators who processed the crime scene said bloody shoe prints were found on a multitude of items in McDermott's home, and the victims weren't wearing shoes when their bodies were found.

Stanbro analyzed distinct herringbone shoe prints found in the snow leading away from McDermott's apartment, plus portions of bloody shoe prints on Goss' white winter jacket, a white T-shirt, a Newport cigarette pack, a paper fragment, a piece of molding from McDermott's bedroom door frame (which was reportedly damaged when the door was forced open), and a green throw rug from his kitchen.

To conduct the analysis, Stanbro said he created model prints from the shoes by wearing them, stepping onto an ink pad, and then a special paper, and used the prints for the basis of comparison of the aforementioned items.

Stanbro explained shoes all have "class characteristics," including tread and tread pattern, but that all shoes have those characteristics. Where shoes become distinct and unique is the cuts, nicks and tears from walking on certain objects, he said.

Of all the items except Goss' jacket, Stanbro said the partial prints didn't have any of those latter unique characteristics, and therefore couldn't be directly linked to the shoes recovered at Ramos' wife's apartment.

But they can't be ruled out, either, he said.

"Other footwear of the same tread design could produce that pattern," Stanbro said. "But I cannot exclude it with certainty ... it could have made the print."

Where Stanbro could be certain about the link between the shoes and prints was one of two found on Goss' coat.

One on the shoulder of the jacket featured a "Swoosh," Nike's trademark logo, said Stanbro, but like the rest of the items, there were no distinguishing marks.

The second print was near the collar of the jacket. Stanbro said there were several areas on the print where the sole had rubbed away in small circular patterns, the same circular patterns on the Nike sneakers.

"It tells me the right sneaker did in fact make that impression on that jacket," Stanbro said.

Ramos' Attorney Mark Juda tried to have all the evidence thrown out before Stanbro's testimony, alleging improper chain of custody of the evidence. He pointed to District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy's request to retrieve one of the items from his office.

Judge Felix Catena overruled Juda's objection.

Stanbro said he did tread analysis on two other pairs of shoes. The first were boots seized from witness Craig McCormick, whose prints were found in an alley next to the apartment building. Stanbro said the treads were consistent with the Timberland boots.

The second were boots worn by an investigator who processed the scene. He reportedly stepped in blood while removing the cadavers from the scene.

Those boots had a herringbone tread, too, but Stanbro said that tread was "a quite different pattern," and said he was able to rule out the investigator's boots in regard to all other prints.

Other testimonies Tuesday:

* Eric Smith, state police investigator. Appeared again Tuesday for cross examination by Juda after a lengthy testimony Monday. Smith on Monday said he positively identified Ramos' palm print in blood in McDermott's apartment.

Juda asked Smith if he'd ever heard of the National Academy of Science's 2009 negative critique of forensic science. Smith said yes, but didn't believe their arguments valid because the panel didn't include fingerprint practitioners.

* William Zennaiter, an acquaintance of Ramos who said he made up a man named "Nutters" on an occasion when a third party accused him of larceny. Said Ramos was present at the time. Ramos told a state police investigator he sold his camouflage jacket to a man named "Nutters" after surveillance from Sikorski's caught him on tape, before the victims were killed. Witnesses said Ramos was wearing the jacket the night and early morning before the homicides.

Juda objected to Zennaiter's testimony, alleging a "tenuous connection," but Catena overruled it in favor of Conboy's argument the testimony established "consciousness of guilt."

     

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