Forensic scientist presents DNA evidence at machete attack trial |

Forensic scientist presents DNA evidence at machete attack trial

Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson presided over the Tyrus Vanmatre's trial, which started on Monday, Aug. 24 and is scheduled for two weeks. Vanmatre is charged with attempted second-degree murder and nine other counts.
Elise Reuter / |

A Colorado Bureau of Investigation forensic scientist presented DNA testing results for several items found near the location of an alleged machete attack last summer. The exhibits, which included various weapons and articles of clothing, were presented several times throughout the trial of Tyrus Vanmatre, a 21-year-old Denver man charged with attempted second-degree murder.

Summit County sheriff’s officers found several items at the crime scene, located at a false summit near Swan Mountain across from the Sapphire Point parking lot. Several blood stains marked the surrounding trees, where Vanmatre and a 16-year-old accomplice allegedly stunned and attacked 20-year-old Jadon Jellis with machetes, and Jellis retaliated with a throwing knife.

Officers found two beanies and a belt in the immediate vicinity of the crime scene. Following a downhill trajectory, thought to be Jellis’ escape, Deputy Nathan Opsahl discovered a trail of blood, along with a throwing knife, a sheath, two motorcycle gloves, a black hoodie and a flannel shirt. These items were submitted to CBI for testing, along with a few articles that were later found in Vanmatre’s car.

Melissa Grass, a forensic scientist with CBI, noted that a conclusive match was not found for two items: a stun gun, found in Vanmatre’s car, and a throwing knife, found near the crime scene.

The stun gun contained traces of Vanmatre’s, Jellis’ and the juvenile’s DNA. The 16-year-old boy was reportedly at the crime scene and used the stun gun, according to statements by the victim and the defendant.

“High-electricity heat is a degrader of DNA,” Grass said. “It’s not uncommon not to find genetic material on such items.”

Meanwhile, Jellis said he used the throwing knife to defend himself, tackling Vanmatre to the ground after Jellis felt the stun gun on his side. CBI was unable to identify a DNA profile for the handle of the knife, possibly because Jellis was wearing motorcycle gloves at the time.

The two machetes were also tested after officers found them in the backseat of Vanmatre’s car. Blood on the blades of each sword matched Jellis’ DNA, while cell material (not blood) taken from the handle of an unsheathed sword had traces of both Vanmatre’s and Jellis’ DNA. Vanmatre previously stated that he had carried the unsheathed sword, after losing the sheath in a struggle with Jellis.

CBI also investigated several pieces of clothing at the scene. Grass noted the interior of a “Minnesota Wild” beanie matched Vanmatre’s DNA profile, while a black, knit beanie contained a mixture of Vanmatre’s and Jellis’ DNA. A pair of motorcycle gloves and a black, hooded sweatshirt found near the scene also contained a mixture of DNA. Jellis said he had borrowed the gloves from Vanmate, but the black beanie was his.

Amanda Becker, an associate for the law office of Douglas Romero, asked if the mixture of DNA could suggest that Vanmatre had lent the beanie to Jellis. Grass noted it was a possibility.

Addressing drug allegations

In an opening statement last week, Romero had argued that Vanmatre, Jellis and the juvenile went up to Summit County to consume LSD, without plans for a scare or an attack. However, Dr. Marshall Denkinger, an emergency physician at Summit Medical Center, said he saw no signs of drug consumption during his testimony on Friday.

He said that when Jellis arrived at the emergency room the morning of June 17, “He was shivering and a little bit agitated but answering questions appropriately.”

He noted that Jellis was covered in dried blood, with obvious facial wounds and a bandaged left hand and was still bleeding from a few of his cuts.

“When you have injuries to your face, your hearing, your vision, some of your basic senses are affected. It’s very disconcerting to patients,” Denkinger said. “I think he was scared out of his wits.”

Initial laboratory studies showed Jellis had lost a significant amount of blood, and that levels were 25 percent down prior to hydration. Denkinger noted that, “If left untreated, he would have continued to bleed.”

He added that Jellis was mildly to moderately hypothermic. While Jellis had removed a sweatshirt while fleeing the scene, Denkinger said the heat and intense thirst could be attributed to a combination of hypothermia, blood loss and exertion, while Romero had previously argued those could indicate LSD consumption.

Once Jellis was warm and clean again, Denkinger noted, “he was calm, collected and very appropriate.”

In a cross-examination, Romero suggested that Jellis’ excessive bleeding might have been a result of intoxication or an inherent condition.

“Some people are bleeders; some people are not,” Romero said.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Denkinger disagreed.

Following a line of questioning by Romero, Denkinger noted that the consumption of LSD or marijuana should not affect the amount of bleeding, but alcohol could block the constriction of blood vessels. Jellis was not tested for drugs, as he displayed no symptoms, and he was determined to be sober according to a BAC test.

“I think I stated earlier that there was no indication that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Denkinger asserted.

The prosecution will conclude witness testimonies on Tuesday. Court will reconvene at 8:30 a.m.

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