Despite contrary claims by the defense, the chief medical examiner is sure the death of Susan M. Quas was a homicide, not a suicide.
"I have no doubt that somebody shot Susan," said Dr. Todd Grey, the last witness in the state's second-degree murder case against John J. Quas, 38, who is accused of shooting his wife the night of June 15, 1987.Quas has maintained that his wife shot herself while he was in the shower. Defense attorneys began calling witnesses Friday afternoon to show that Mrs. Quas was suicidal and prone to bouts of violence and irrational behavior.
But Grey said there are several reasons supporting his conclusion that the death was a homicide.
For one thing, the victim was shot through the eye, an act that, although possible, is "very atypical for a suicide.
"I have seen only one other case in which a person shot himself through the eye. He was playing Russian roulette."
Grey said that the .44-caliber handgun used to kill Mrs. Quas was held 16 inches to 18 inches from her head. At that distance, if the death were suicide, she would have had to fully extend her arms as well as lean her head backward before firing, Grey said.
"I've never seen a case where (a suicide victim) held a gun as far away as he could before shooting," Grey told the eight-member jury.
Most telling, however, is the lack of physical evidence that the victim was holding the gun when it discharged, Grey said.
There was no gunshot residue or any sign of high-velocity blood spattering, referred to as "blowback," on her hands or arms. One or both phenomena are present in suicide cases, he said.
"There was nothing to indicate to me she was holding the weapon when it was fired."
Supporting Grey's testimony was that of Jim Gaskill, director of the Weber State Crime Laboratory, who test-fired the handgun 25 times. In each case, the shooter received gunshot residue on his hand.
However, residue tests on Mrs. Quas' hands were negative.
"My opinion is it's very unlikely that she fired the gun," Gaskill testified.
But Gaskill could not find any gunshot residue on the tests taken of the defendant either.
However, Kevin Smith, a criminologist with the state crime laboratory, testified earlier that he found a trace of lead on Quas' left hand.
According to Quas' statements to police, he was in the shower when he heard a shot. He exited the shower to find his wife lying in a pool of blood with the gun beside her in the living room.
But officers testified that Quas did not appear to have just showered and that the shower and bathroom were dry.