Prosecution in Shaw murder trial builds case for \’aggravating circumstances\’ with barrage of forensic evidence

“The knife entered through the left side of Jared’s neck, completely severing the jugular vein — it was torn in half,” said forensic pathologist Dr. Gordon Handte. “The blade was so deep, it became partially wedged into the bone of the spine.
“Hemorrhage from this injury was the cause of death.”
Dr. Handte was the first of eight witnesses called by the prosecution in day two of testimony in the Nathan Todd Shaw capital murder trial. Shaw, formerly of the Tyrone area, is being tried for the savage beating and killing of 6-year-old Jared Klein, and the attack and rape of Jared’s mother, Christina Muoio, Shaw’s estranged girlfriend.
The attacks took place the night after Christmas 2005.
In Pennsylvania, in order to ask for the death penalty in a first degree murder case, there must be at least one of a list of 18 aggravating circumstances, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio, who’s seeking the death penalty for Shaw, says there are three, and Wednesday, prosecutors went to great lengths to build their case for aggravating circumstances.
From the start of Dr. Handte’s testimony Wednesday morning, prosecutors began to present grim photos taken during Klein’s autopsy, images that immediately caused reactions from those in the courtroom audience. Gasps and sobbing could be heard each time a new photo was displayed — some had to exit the courtroom. At one point, a juror requested that a photo be taken down, but Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron said it would have to remain while Dr. Handte testified, as the doctor needed to use the photos to detail Klein’s wounds. Milliron told the jury the photos would be taken down as quickly as possible.
“The jugular vein returns blood to the heart,” Dr. Handte explained. “When the jugular is severed as it is in this case, the body will bleed out more slowly than it would had the carotid artery been cut. The carotid artery is the main blood supply to the brain and there is much more blood pressure. With an injury to this artery, you would see much more spurting of blood and death would occur much more quickly.
“With regard to the injury Jared suffered, the blood would have oozed out more slowly. Death could’ve taken tens of seconds, maybe minutes.”
Handte also gave detailed accounts of numerous other injuries Jared suffered prior to death. This is key in the prosecution’s request for the death penalty, as they hope to show the jury that Klein was more than likely alive and possibly conscious for numerous blows to the head, lacerations to the face and ear, and ultimately, the stab wound that ended his life.
“Would you say that the knife wound was the last injury administered to Jared?” asked Blair County assistant DA Douglas Keating.
“The bruising on the side of Jared’s head, on his scalp and to his right ear, along with the brain swelling, had to occur while he was still alive,” the pathologist testified. “If the heart had stopped pumping, this bruising could not have taken place.”
Handte said it was likely that Klein was also choked, evidenced by burst blood vessels around the eyes and mouth. He said the beating the young boy took prior to death was “significant.”
The prosecution also called several forensic scientists from the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab in Greensburg who worked with DNA evidence related to the Shaw case. Example after example of DNA evidence was meticulously presented, including a bloody roll of duct tape, a “rape kit” performed on Muoio at Altoona Regional Health System the night of the attacks, clothing and other blood samples taken from the crime scene. Each piece of evidence seemed to link Shaw to the crimes.
The defense is expected to present its case today and many are anticipating testimony from the defendant himself. On Tuesday, Attorney Theodore Krol said in his opening statement that Shaw will testify on his own behalf, that the accused “wants to tell his story and he will get that chance. Though Nate did take the action that caused this death, it’s our position that Nate never intended to do harm that night.
“He had a loving relationship with Jared,” Krol added. “He was Jared’s father, the only father he knew. This is a tragedy; but it was not Nate’s intent to cause the death of his son.”