Autopsy shows Miller suffered
Forensic pathologists testify victim was alive when her head went into the water
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A 26-year-old Hollidaysburg woman found dead in 2004 at Canoe Creek State Park would have gone through an extreme amount of pain, fear and anxiety in the events leading up to her death, based on testimony of two forensic pathologists offered Monday in Blair County Court.
The examination of Tina S. Miller’s body and an autopsy report generated no conclusions on the sequence of events leading up to her death, the forensic pathologists reported.
But they did reveal that before she took her last breath on June 27, 2004, the young woman was struck three times on the head, dragged through brush, restrained with duct tape, sodomized to mutilation, strangled and her face was shoved into the lake bed of the park, which likely caused her to drown. Miller’s partly-clothed body was found at the edge of the lake by a couple who were fishing in a small boat.
“She was alive when she breathed in the muddy water,” Dr. Samuel Land, a forensic pathologist from Allentown, told jurors during on the fifth day of testimony in Paul Aaron Ross’ trial for first-degree murder and related sexual assault charges.
Ross, now 48, was 32 years old at the time of Miller’s death. He was the last person to be seen with Miller, about 4:30 a.m. at Canoe Creek State Park where a friend said he dropped off the pair at a boat launch near Ross’ residence.
Ross has maintained his innocence, claiming that Miller was picked up at the park by someone who was driving a white pickup truck.
During cross examination Monday, defense attorney Thomas Dickey suggested to Land that Miller’s head injuries could have been suffered by her being shoved against a dashboard inside a pickup truck.
Dickey also offered additional scenarios, including one proposing that Miller’s injuries could have been inflicted in the bed of a pickup truck before her body was taken to the edge of the water.
Land told the jury that the autopsy information indicates Miller was alive when she was sodomized with an object that tore through the tissues of her anus, colon and posterior vaginal wall, causing massive internal bleeding.
“You’d need a heart beat to produce this amount of bleeding,” he said.
When asked if a beer bottle with a serrated edge cap could cause such damage, Land said it could with an extreme amount of force.
“Whatever was put in was twisted and thrust back and forth,” Land said.
Land’s testimony was offered in addition to a reading of testimony Dr. Saree Funke rendered in court in 2005.
Funke, who conducted Miller’s autopsy, which Land reviewed, was described as unable to testify during the current trial.
In 2005 when Funke testified in court, the reading of her testimony indicated that she said: “Yes, the bottle cap could have caused all these tears.”
Funke also proposed, during her 2005 testimony, that investigators didn’t find Miller’s blood in the state park, possibly because her body could have been dragged by her feet or because Miller was sexually assaulted in the water.
Also in court on Monday, Susan Hart and Robin Miller told the jury that their sister had no cellphone at the time of her death.
Retired District Attorney Richard Consiglio, lead prosecutor, has repeatedly questioned witnesses about Miller’s access to a cellphone. By doing that, he is challenging Ross’ claim that Miller secured a ride from the state park by someone who showed up in a white pickup truck.
Hart and Robin Miller, who said they regularly talked by phone with their sister in 2004, said she was dependent on a landline and an answering machine.
Consiglio, who has called 32 witnesses in five days, said Monday that he expects to call about 10 more. The trial is scheduled to wrap up at the end of the week.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.