State questions forensic pathologist, Dr. Robert Corliss - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: State questions forensic pathologist, Dr. Robert Corliss


MERRILL (WAOW) --  Testimony continued in the trial against the man charged with killing his mother and making it look like an accident. On Friday, it became clear, not even the experts know how Sally Pergolski died.

Dr. Corliss is a forensic pathologist in the state crime lab in Madison.  After Pergolski's initial autopsy he examined her body, and tried to gain clues about the case.

Dr. Corliss does not know how Pergolski died, but she does know how she didn't.

"I do not believe the contusion caused her death," Corliss explained. "There is minimal evidence and I don't think it was a drowning event."

Dr. Corliss also testified the cause of death was not natural causes, a heart attack or an overdose.

Corliss told the court that Pegolski suffered multiple injuries before she died such as bruising on her arms, wrist, thigh and also damage to her throat.

"It would have had to be a straight impact (to her throat) to cause the damage," Corliss explained.

But that wasn't all.  Dr. Corliss told the court that Pergolski also suffered a blow to the head.

"I don't believe it was an incapacitating blow," Corliss explained.  Meaning that he does not believe it knocked her unconscious.

But, Defense Attorney John Voorhees argued that Pergolski's injuries were not fatal, and without an exact cause of death, the jury couldn't speculate.

"You're right, I have no definitive conclusions. Just a series of findings," Corliss said.

Dr. Corliss testified that Pergolski how he could be sure, since he didn't know how the damage occurred.

Other witnesses were a toxicologist that testified Pergolski had "high amounts" of Vicodin, a common pain reliever and Tramadol, another pain reliever, in her system at the time of death.

The toxicologist doesn't believe an overdose was the cause of death either.

Testimony will continue on Monday.


Dr. Robert Corliss, a forensic pathologist from Madison, testified on the fourth day of testimony, for the state.

Dr. Corliss testified, in his expert opinion, Pergolski did not die in an automobile accident or from natural causes.  Dr. Corliss went on to tell the court, in his expert opinion, Pergolski did not die from drowning, or head trauma, based on the autopsy results.

Corliss testified that there was evidence of head trauma before the crash occurred.  He told the jury that there was a bruise, "related to a blow or impact behind, and above the left ear."  He told the court, the injury happened before Pergolski died.

"I do not believe the blow was incapacitating either," Dr. Corliss told the court.  In his medical opinion, based on the size and damage the bruise left, he believes it would not have caused Pergolski to lose consciousness.

Corliss explained Pergolski had other injuries, such as bruising on the upper arm, wrist and thigh.

The state continued questioning, asking Corliss about Pergolski's brain. Corliss told the court she showed red neurons. Red neurons occur in the brain when a person suffers brain damage. Based on the amount and nature of the red neurons, Corliss told the court that this is evidence of a person being brain dead.

"Can a person operate a motor vehicle if they are brain dead?" Assistant District Attorney Don Latoracca asked.

"No they cannot," Corliss answered.

Dr. Corliss followed up by saying the brain damage (and red neurons) was not a result of the blow to the head Pergolski suffered before the crash.

The court adjourned for lunch. When they are back in session, Defense Attorney John Voorhees will begin his questioning of Dr. Corliss.



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