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EXPERT UNSURE OF MOTHER’S WHEREABOUTS

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The blood-spatter expert who reconstructed the slayings of the Kastanis family after studying bloodstains and other evidence said he can't account for one thing:

Where was Margaret Kastanis when her three children were attacked and stabbed in the basement bedroom?Rod Englert said the evidence shows that Margaret Kastanis was injured as she tried to interrupt the attack on 9-year-old Clinton Kastanis in the upstairs bathroom. But that attack occurred after both of his sisters were stabbed to death in the basement, according to his reconstruction.

Englert said he could not tell from the evidence where the mother would have been until Clinton was attacked in the bathroom.

Did she hear the girls scream?

"One would assume that at the time the young girls were in that (basement) room, they would have screamed," defense attorney Ron Yengich said. "There's a substantial period of time . . . where she does not do anything to protect her children."

Yengich has accused police and prosecutors of ignoring evidence that indicates a suicidal Margaret Kastanis killed the children and then herself. Sam Kastanis said he was outside in an unattached garage when the slayings occurred on Nov. 17, 1991.

Yengich tries to portray hired gun

The defense attorney cross-examined the state's star witness throughout most of Wednesday and tried to portray Englert as a hired gun. A sometimes combative Yengich asked how much he was getting paid for his testimony, but Englert replied he was only being paid for his time.

"I'm not paid for my testimony or what I say," he said.

Englert explained that he is paid $150 an hour and has worked more than 200 hours for a total of more than $30,000.

Witness's credibility questioned

The defense also attacked Englert's courtroom demeanor and the conclusions he reached on other homicide investigations. Yengich referred to an Indiana case involving a man who was hit in the head 32 times with a hammer.

Englert was consulted on that case, concluding the death was a suicide. He said the man hit himself in the head with the pointed end of the hammer and the wounds were superficial. Only the elected coroner in the area disagrees with his conclusion while "hundreds of others" agree with him, he said.

"They (the hundreds) are students that take your class that are asked to agree with you, isn't that correct?" Yengich asked.

Englert said those students are all homicide detectives with experience in investigating deaths.

Yengich said he plans to impeach Englert's testimony by calling a forensic pathologist who investigated the Indiana case and believes it was a homicide.

Offensive or defensive wounds?

Englert said the evidence shows "with certainty" that Margaret Kastanis could not have killed the children, saying defensive wounds on her hands are one of the reasons he reached his conclusion. The defense believes the cuts on her hands are offensive wounds caused as her fingers slid across the bloody blade while she attacked the children and not while she fended off an attack.

But such offensive wounds are "very, very rare," Englert said. "Those (injuries to Margaret's hands) are classical signature defensive wounds."

Yengich also questioned how Englert could detect blood on the shoes and shirt of Sam Kastanis after the FBI conducted tests and found no blood. The attorney also questioned why Englert had not ordered tests for blood be conducted in certain areas of the home and on specific areas of some of the victims' clothing.

After hours of cross-examination, prosecutor Kent Morgan stood up and announced he had no additional questions for his expert witness and rested the state's case.