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State crime lab tech takes stand in Strong murder trial
A technician from the state crime lab took the stand Wednesday during the trial of Preston Strong, who is accused of killing a Yuma physician nearly five years ago.
Defense attorney Kristi Riggins questioned Nikki Petrin about several items of evidence she tested that had been collected from the crime scene, including the cloth belt believed to have been used in the murder and some articles of clothing.
Strong has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of kidnapping, one count of armed robbery, one count of burglary, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted arson in the murder of Yuma physician Satinder Gill nearly five years ago.
The 62-year-old Gill was found dead inside his home at 4596 W. La Quinta Loop on Nov. 2, 2007. He had been suffocated and had blunt-force trauma to his head. A large sum of money was missing.
Petrin testified that she was asked to examine the items, which had been sent to the crime lab in March of this year, for biological fluids (blood) and cellular material, more commonly referred to as DNA.
When questioned about the belt, Petrin said while she did not find any blood or DNA on it, only two areas were tested. She said she chose those two areas because they looked noticeably different than the rest of the belt.
“I was looking for areas that could have been pulled or stretched,” Petrin said.
Petrin, who did not know whom the articles of clothing had belonged to, said she was also asked to test an undershirt, underwear, a pair of tan pants, a pair of black pants and a blue, long-sleeve dress shirt.
Of those items, Petrin said she found blood on the tan pants and stains on the blue shirt that Strong was wearing the day of the murder but that had been washed before police collected it as evidence. She was not asked whose blood was on the items.
Riggins asked if the chemicals used in the blood tests could react to other ingredients other than blood. Petrin replied that they could. Riggins also asked if the tests could distinguish the difference between human and other blood. Petrin said they could not.
Also on the stand Wednesday was Officer Cruz Vidal of the Yuma Police Department. Riggins used bank records to question Vidal about the amount of money — about $7,000 — that Strong had given his ex-girlfriend in the nine months prior to the murder.
Strong's ex-girlfriend had testified earlier in the trial that he had given her $9,500 in cash the same day Gill was found dead by Yuma police.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.