Coroner: Furr almost immediately fell unconscious after injuries

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY – J.D. Furr would have almost immediately or within a few minutes fell unconscious from the injuries sustained in an attack that happened in November of 2013, a coroner who performed Furr’s autopsy said on Thursday during the trial of Jeff Steen.

Steen is accused of beating Furr, his grandfather, to death with a gardening tool and attempting to kill his mother, Sandra Steen.

During the trial on Friday, Dr. Samuel Simmons was questioned by Brandy Cook, district attorney, and Darrin Jordan, Steen’s attorney.

Simmons now works for a pathology field team for a pharmaceutical company, but during the time of the incident he worked for the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.

Cook showed the jury about 15 photographs of Furr’s body from the autopsy report and Simmons described each photograph. He pointed out the many lacerations and abrasions around the head, skull fractures and a spine fracture. Furr’s ribs were fractured and the fractures may have caused a laceration on his right lung.

Simmons said the internal chest injuries probably occurred when Furr fell to the ground.

No tissue was found under Furr’s fingernails, just dust and debris. There was also blood on both of his hands.

A thumbnail was pulled off and a pinky nail was partially pulled off, and while Simmons said those injuries were “nonspecific,” he said they could be defensive wounds.

The injuries Furr suffered were made from a blunt object because the cuts were jagged and not consistent with a cut made by a sharp blade or razor edge, Simmons said.

Brandy Cook asked Simmons if the potato hoe found next to Furr could have caused his injuries. Simmons said there were multiple instruments that could have caused the injuries and the potato hoe was one of them.

Simmons said he ruled that the cause of death was blunt force to the head and neck and that all of the injuries appeared to have occurred at around the same time.

Though some of the blows looked like they came from certain directions, Simmons said there was no way to be sure which direction they all came from.

The injuries would have immediately rendered Furr unconscious, Simmons said, or they would have within a few minutes. He said any one of the injuries would have been painful and that pain would have been felt if Furr was conscious enough to perceive pain.

Simmons said he did not know which injuries occurred first. Darrin Jordan said the injuries to the head could have knocked him out almost immediately, and Simmons said that was possible.

Jordan brought up Furr’s heart condition and Simmons said he did find that Furr’s heart was enlarged during the autopsy.

Jordan asked if the heart condition could lessen the amount of time it took for Furr to pass out or die.

“It’s possible, yes,” Simmons said.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.