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Coroner Describes Scene and Condition of the Body of Cody Johnson in Third Day of Jordan Graham Trial

Photo courtesy of David Restivo/NPS

The coroner for the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department gave his account of where he found articles of clothing belonging to Cody Johnson, as well as a cloth that has been in question, from the witness stand today, Dec. 11, in the third day of the Jordan Graham murder trial.

Richard Sine, who has 43 years of experience as a police officer and has served as the coroner for Flathead County since April 2012, climbed down with a group of other agents to Johnson’s body, which had been discovered in a pool of water in Glacier National Park. It was Sine’s job to identify the body and to determine a cause of death.

Sine told the jury that the area was a series of waterfalls and pools. He said that the first sign of Johnson that he came upon was a shoe downstream of the body about 100 to 150 yards. The next thing he saw was a black cloth near a waterfall, about “one-third of the way to the body.” In a feeder drainage above where Johnson’s body was found, Sine said he found Johnson’s other shoe as well as one sock that was down slope from the second shoe. Photographs of each item in the location that they were found were shown as evidence exhibits.

The prosecution admitted all of Johnson’s clothing as evidence with consent from the defense. However, the black cloth, was not one of the articles submitted. During cross examination, (see below) Sine was asked questions similar to those asked the previous day to Detective Cory Clark about the way the cloth was handled and bagged. Sine knew very little about how this piece of evidence was treated, as his focus was to process evidence from the body itself.

Sine moved down to the body via a rope and began a gross examination of the body for identification and to check for injuries. He was able to identify the body as being Johnson’s after finding his driver’s license in his shorts pocket.

Johnson had a small fracture about 8 inches long on his forehead, according to Sine. He said he also had several lacerations on his legs.

Sine also inspected Johnson to see if he had any jewelry or personal effects on him. Johnson did not have any jewelry on him, not even his wedding ring.

A photo of Johnson’s left hand laying on his midsection was the only close up image of Johnson’s body that was shown on the monitors visible to those in the courtroom gallery. The purpose was to show that his wedding ring was not present, but it also showed signs of how long Johnson had been submerged in the water as his skin was shriveled and white and his clothes were soaked through. When his clothes were submitted as evidence, they were covered in dried dirt and had obviously been wet.

Johnson’s body was lifted from the water in a yellow, mesh body bag up to higher ground where it was put into a standard, black body bag. The imagery of this sequence of events was chronicled through photographs shown as exhibits to those in the courtroom.

During cross examination for the defense, Mike Donahue returned to the topic of the cloth, asking Sine who he gave it to, who photographed it and who bagged it.

“When I located the cloth I was not in immediate vicinity to anyone else,” Sine said. “I did alert someone else of it being there.”

Sine went on to say that he photographed the cloth in the original place he saw it at before it was disturbed. However, it was not involved with the reservation of any evidence besides that which was immediately on the body.

Donahue concluded his cross examination by asking Sine about the weather conditions on the day that the body was recovered. Sine said that it was sunny and warm, and with regard to wind, he doesn’t recall there being any, but if there was he said it would have been “minimal in that canyon.”

In redirect, Sine was asked just one question. Did he find any car keys on Johnson when he was searching the body? The answer, “no.”

Full Coverage of the Jordan Graham Trial

 

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