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Jury sees autopsy photos in murder trials

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY ó There may never be a definitive way to determine how close Robert Earnhardt was to his stepfather, Billy Elmore, when authorities said Elmore was shot and killed.
Earnhardt is on trial for first-degree murder in Elmoreís death. Elmore was shot near the back of the head on Sept. 17, 2009, at 165 Leisure Lane, outside a home he shared with his estranged wife, Patty Kesler Earnhardt Elmore, up until Elmore moved.
Jurors heard Friday morning from Dr. Thomas Owens, a forensic pathologist, who performed an autopsy on Elmore.
The autopsy was performed Sept. 18, 2009, the morning after the shooting, at the medical examinerís office in Charlotte.
The pathologist could not determine the type of ammunition that killed Elmore because he did not recover any from the body.
He also said the wounds were consistent with a gunshot that had been anywhere from 2 to 5 feet away. Owens later said without being able to fire that same weapon with the same ammunition, there is no way to tell how close the weapon was to Elmoreís head area.
Owens said he measures the distance by the end of the weapon to the target, in this case it would be the tip of the shotgun barrel to Billy Elmoreís head.
Owens said based on his findings he could say without a doubt a shotgun was used to kill Elmore. He could not say with 100 percent certainty if the ammunition was buckshot or a slug.
The autopsy also revealed Elmore had a blood alcohol content of 0.17, or nearly twice the 0.08 legal limit.
The pathologist said he also had to reconstruct Elmoreís head to better assess the wounds and determine the injuries to the head.
Jurors were shown autopsy photos, which Earnhardtís attorney, Jay White, objected to being shown.
See Saturdayís Post for more.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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