Victim 'beaten up pretty badly,' M.E. says
Nelson, who has performed about 4,000 autopsies during more than 20 years as a medical examiner, was the 25th and final witness to testify for the prosecution in a bench trial being heard by Judge John Collins. The state rested when he completed his presentation.
He labeled the cause of death as blunt force trauma and the manner as homicide. He performed an autopsy three days after Xavier Wolfgang, caretaker at the rural Sheridan site at the time, allegedly bludgeoned his 77-year-old employer to death.
Abrasions, contusions and lacerations were evident on Adelman’s head, Nelson said. He characterized them as “impact” injuries, and said they could have been caused by Adelman either being hit by an object or falling down after being struck.
He also took note of what he described as “gouging” lacerations.
Nelson could not identify a weapon, but said it had a rough surface. The prosecution believes it was a piece of wood. A weapon was never found.
Deputy District Attorney Ladd Wiles questioned Nelson about internal injuries Adelman sustained.
The medical examiner noted a deep scalp hemorrhage on the right side of his head, saying it likely resulted in a brain injury.
Adelman stood 5-foot-6 and weighed 232 pounds. Nelson said he was not in good health.
“He had bad heart disease. His heart was not working well. That was all magnified by the stress of being beaten up and injured. The blunt force trauma and his heart condition were not a good combination.”
Nelson said Adelman was struck at least three times, if not more. Wolfgang told detectives during a videorecorded interview that he delivered half a dozen blows in two separate salvos.
Patrol Sgt. Todd Whitlow of the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the murder scene on East Rock Creek Road on April 18, after the victim’s daughter, Melissa Adelman, requested a welfare check.
Whitlow, who also serves as a deputy medical examiner, testified early last week that Adelman sustained blunt force trauma wounds resulting in bruising to the face and upper torso. He said the body had been stripped and dragged into a barn.
Whitlow said he found a water bottle cap in Adelman’s mouth, and that was confirmed by Nelson.
“It was just there,” Nelson said. “That’s all I know.”
It’s believed Adelman was murdered on Tuesday, April 17. Neither Nelson nor Whitlow could pinpoint an exact date or time of death.
The only thing found on Adelman was a wristwatch. It had stopped on April 16, according to Whitlow.
Prior to Nelson’s testimony, a trio of Oregon State Police forensic scientists — Veronica Vance, Adrianne Schackart and Celeste Grover — took the stand for the prosecution.
Brad Sanders of Sheridan Select Market, Joseph Shenk of Fred Meyer in Portland and Ann Harmon of New Seasons Market in Portland also testified Thursday. Video surveillance showed Wolfgang purchasing items at each of those outlets on April 17 and 18.
Russell Meade of the Oregon Department of Corrections, a former sheriff’s office reserve, testified he transported Wolfgang from the Yamhill County Jail to the Oregon State Hospital in March 2013.
He said they made small talk during the trip. He said one of the things Wolfgang claimed was that after hours of interrogation by detectives Kevin Gardner and Robert Eubanks, he “began telling them what they wanted to hear.”
That’s the basis of the defense’s challenge to the recorded confession.