Autopsy photos in Hamilton trial make jurors cry

By Diana Baldwin Published: December 14, 2001
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Three Oklahoma County jurors cried Thursday as they looked at an autopsy photograph of a hole in the skull of a woman beaten and strangled to death on Valentine's Day.

The jurors, all women and the youngest members on the panel, wiped their eyes with tissues while Dr. Jeffrey Gofton, a forensic pathologist for the state Medical Examiner's office, testified he believes Susan Hamilton, 55, died from possibly three blows to her head with a blunt instrument. One blow crushed her skull, Gofton said.

She was strangled with a necktie and then her face was repeatedly smashed into the tile floor in the bathroom of her Quail Creek home.

Dr. John Baxter Hamilton is on trial for killing his wife. If convicted of first-degree murder, Hamilton, 53, could be sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

Jurors have spent two days hearing testimony and looking at photographs of the bloody crime scene and injuries the victim suffered.

Oklahoma City police Sgt. Larry Spruill, a crime scene investigator, was on the stand for a second day Thursday, detailing what the evidence means and how it got there.

Spruill told jurors he believed the attack happened quickly and the victim fought to free the necktie from her neck.

"She was taken down almost immediately and spun onto her face, Spruill said. "I don't think it took very long at all. I would say less than two minutes.

Marks made by the victim's fingernails were found on the body. Spruill said she probably grabbed at the necktie with both of her hands.

Prosecutors claim the defendant had fingernail scratches on one of his shoulders when he was arrested. The defense says the scratches could have been made by a number of objects besides fingernails. Pictures of his injuries have been shown to the jury.

One unanswered question for investigators is how the killer got out of the house at 3056 Brush Creek Road without leaving a bloody trail. Officers say they can account for all the bloody footprints inside the house, but there is no evidence showing how the person got outside.

Prosecutors are trying to prove Hamilton hid his bloody clothes and the blunt instrument used to kill the victim.

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