Doctor details grisly details of throat slashing
March 11, 2003
Based on the multiple throat slashes, blood and chest contusions, a forensic pathologist believes someone kneeled on 9-year-old Rebbeca Aramburo to cut her throat.
Dr. Gregory Reiber, who works for the Forensic Medical Group in Sacramento, said evidence is more consistent with the defense’s theory that someone kneeled on Rebbeca to kill her rather than her assailant cutting her throat from behind.
Rebbeca’s mother, Lisa Platz, stands trial in El Dorado County Superior Court for the murder of her child. Rebbeca was found dead after a nine-hour standoff with authorities on Sept. 21, 2001.
Platz was found with wrist cuts while her boyfriend, James Csucsai, had a slash to his throat. He later committed suicide in jail.
Platz faces life in state prison if convicted. She remains in El Dorado County Jail without bail.
Public Defender Rick Meyer called his strongest witness to substantiate his belief that a mentally deranged Csucsai killed Rebbeca inside the tent the three shared.
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With the deepest neck wound on the right side of Rebbeca’s throat and a shallow trail to the left, Reiber believes the attacker faced Rebbeca and slashed from left to right.
The assailant then pulled the knife in the opposite direction, causing more damage. The cuts partially severed Rebbeca’s trachea and voice box, making the child unable to scream.
Reiber also believed Platz’s left wrist wound, which sliced tendons and was supposedly created by one movement, was a defensive wound. Her right wrist, Reiber said, had hesitation marks and shallower, multiple cuts more likely to be self-inflicted.
Reiber said Rebbeca’s blood would likely have showed up on her attacker’s clothes, such as the cuff area and knees and thighs if her assailant had been kneeling on her.
Past witnesses from the Department of Justice testified they found the child’s blood on Csucsai’s clothing, including the left cuff and pants. No blood from Rebbeca was found on her mother’s clothing.
Platz’s DNA was found on the suspected murder weapon, a large military knife, and the blood of all three, in different amounts, was found on the blade. Past testimony revealed DNA is easily transferable.
Asked by Meyer if he expected Rebbeca’s blood to be on a sleeve, Reiber said he did. A right-handed person would usually use the left hand to hold the victim’s head up, Reiber said.
Popped blood vessels around Rebbeca’s eyes would additionally support the defense’s theory of kneeling, Reiber said.
The prosecution, led by District Attorney Gary Lacy, believes Platz was behind Rebbeca and killed the child from a left to right slice. On cross-examination, Lacy used a ruler to simulate a knife to demonstrate his theory.
Lacy questioned Reiber on the possibility of a knife coming in, nicking Rebbeca’s right hand and cutting her throat from left to right, creating a smaller, nonfatal wound. Having this cut leaving the undesired affect, the assailant cut deeper into Rebbeca’s throat, Lacy contended.
Reiber said it was a possibility, but the evidence more likely proves a large gash starting from right to left on the victim and back again.
Using his assistant, Deputy District Attorney Tony Sears, Lacy attempted to prove the awkwardness of a frontal attack described by the defense.
Two chest bruises on Rebbeca, which were not visible to the naked eye, were roughly 2.5 inches apart, Reiber said. Lacy put his knees together, measured the distance from his knees and kneeled over Sears. Even though the distance between Lacy’s knees were farther than 2 inches, Reiber said the abrasions could be caused by the inner knees.
Also called to the stand was Peter Van Arnum, deputy coroner for El Dorado County. Van Arnum testified about finding three letters in Csucsai’s jail cell after the April suicide. They were addressed to Platz, Csucsai’s family and his attorney.
A co-worker of Platz’s said the defendant had a solid bond with her child. Platz, a student at the time, was affable enough that she got a job at the front desk and a rare duty of assisting the director at Ohio Business College.
Platz would always crouch down to talk to Rebbeca at eye level, Jane Hildebrand said.
“That was one of the neatest things I’ve seen a person do,” Hildebrand said.
But after Rebbeca’s father gained custody of the child in December 1999, Platz, who remained a responsible, good student, “was never the same after that,” Hildebrand said. “Very sad, very quiet.”
The trial resumes today at 9 a.m. with further questioning of Reiber.
— E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org