Wecht debunks claims in retrial of Redstone fatal stabbing
A Fayette County man likely would have fallen unconscious two minutes after his girlfriend plunged a knife two inches into his chest and heart, according to a forensic pathologist who testified Tuesday during a Brownsville woman’s homicide retrial.
“He could have lived in an unconscious state, maybe six minutes or so, but he would not have remained conscious beyond two minutes,” testified Dr. Cyril Wecht, describing the fatal stab wound that police said Dayna M. McMaster inflicted on Clarence “Duke” Blair III.
But McMaster, in an hourlong recorded statement that was played for jurors, told a state trooper that when she stabbed Blair, he remained standing outside his truck long enough to punch her, throw her to the ground, grab her by her hair, twist her neck and slam her head against the vehicle several times.
“He started beating me again,” McMaster told the trooper. “He started punching me. He put me on the ground. He’s doing all this, after I stabbed him.”
A jury in 2010 convicted McMaster, 37, of third-degree murder in the June 26, 2009, stabbing of Blair.
Prosecutors said McMaster stabbed Blair, a tree-trimmer, in the heart while they were arguing on a gravel road near Cardale Elementary School in Redstone. Earlier in the evening, they had smoked crack cocaine.
McMaster drove Blair to Uniontown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
McMaster was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.
She was granted a retrial in August 2013, when a panel of state Superior Court judges found her attorney did not call witnesses whose testimony might have bolstered her allegations of domestic abuse.
On cross-examination Tuesday by defense attorney Dianne Zerega of Uniontown, Wecht testified Blair might have remained conscious for as long as five minutes after the knife sliced through his left aorta.
“That would be stretching it,” Wecht testified. “I hesitate to say impossible, but I’d find it somewhat unlikely.”
Jurors were shown a photo of the stab wound. Wecht said two marks on each side of the wound were made by the knife’s hilt, or the point where the blade is attached to the handle.
In her recorded statement to Trooper Louis Serafini, McMaster said she and Blair were arguing because he sold cellphones she had purchased with her grandmother’s stolen credit card. He used the cash to buy crack cocaine while she was in the state police barracks in Uniontown. Troopers had taken her there earlier in the day when she was caught attempting to steal video games, McMaster said in the statement.
McMaster told Serafini that Blair had beaten her repeatedly in the past and threatened her with the same knife she used to stab him. She said she took the knife from the truck console and hid it underneath her as the two argued in the truck because she feared for her life.
“I knew what I was in for,” she said on the recording. “I knew I was in for a beating.”
Blair punched her in the head and threatened to kill her and himself, she told the trooper.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m killing you, (expletive), and I’m killing myself tonight,’ ” McMaster said in the recorded statement.
McMaster told the trooper she was seated in the truck’s passenger seat, with the door open, when Blair walked around the vehicle to approach her. She stabbed him when he punched her, she told Serafini.
“I pulled the knife out, and I stabbed him,” McMaster told Serafini, describing how she intended to stab him only in the arm or shoulder so he would stop beating her.
She said Blair got back in the driver’s seat of the truck, and she “straddled” him, telling him she was sorry. On the way to the hospital, she said she stopped to ask a man to call 911 but resumed driving at Blair’s request.
Prosecutors Jack Heneks and Anthony Iannamorelli rested their case on Tuesday. Zerega is expected to begin the defense’s case on Wednesday before Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or [email protected].