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Defense witness in Dooley retrial disputes claim Michelle Mockbee was killed with a tape gun

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

A defense expert Monday disputed the manner by which the prosecution claims a Ft. Mitchell mother of two was killed in 2012.

Medical examiner Dr. Gregory Wanger testified on Feb. 25 that he believes an industrial tape gun was used to kill Michelle Mockbee. A defense expert disputed that testimony Monday (photo by Mark Hansel).

The prosecution has maintained throughout the David Dooley retrial that Michelle Mockbee was bludgeoned to death with an industrial tape dispenser.

Initially Dr. Gregory Wanger, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Mockbee said two weapons might have been used in the killing because Mockbee had both linear and curved injuries to her head.

After being shown a dispenser that is identical to those found in the Thermo Fisher Scientific facility in Boone County where Mockbee was killed, Wanger changed his opinion.

“I think it’s the tape gun,” Wanger said when he testified as a prosecution witness on February 25.

Monday, not only did defense expert Dr. Richard Haut say he did not believe the tape gun caused the injuries that killed Mockbee, he said that wasn’t even a possibility.

Haut, a biomechanical engineer and a professor emeritus at Michigan State University, went into great detail about how he came to that conclusion.

He presented a chart showing the range of force needed to produce the injuries Mockbee sustained using the tape gun as a weapon. He then showed the maximum amount of force a human could generate using the dispenser to strike someone in the head and cause the fractures Mockbee sustained.

It was well below the amount Haut said was needed to kill someone using the tape gun as a weapon.

Haut said he used an impact projection far greater than that of an average person, the force at which a baseball bat swung by a major leaguer would strike a baseball.

Dr. Richard Haut, a biomechanical engineer from Michigan State University, said it is impossible for a tape gun to have caused the wounds that killed Michelle Mockbee in 2012 (photo by Mark Hansel).

Mockbee’s skull was fractured in four places.

“My conclusion is that instrument wielding as fast as anybody could, could not produce these cranial fractures on this subject,” Haut said. “It’s just not possible using Newtownian physics and based on my own lab work.”

On cross-examination, special prosecutor Jeff Prather asked Haut if a kick to the head could have caused the injuries.

Prather is a special prosecutor with the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General, which represents the Commonwealth in this case.

“If someone were kicked in the head, we could have these fractures, we’d be in the threshold area, wouldn’t we?” Prather asked.

Haut replied that off of the top of his head, he would say yes.

During his testimony, Wanger was not asked if a kick to the head was consistent with the type of wounds Mockbee suffered and the prosecution had not previously suggested that as the manner of death.

Michelle Mockbee, a Fort Mitchell mother of two, was killed at the Thermo Fisher Scientific plant where she worked in May, 2012. David Dooley, who worked as an outside contractor at the facility is on trial for murder in the killing (provided photo).

Mockbee was killed early on the morning of May 29, 2012, shortly after she reported to work at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Dooley was employed as an outside contractor at the facility performing custodial duties.

He was convicted of murder in the killing in 2014 and sentenced to life in prison.

Dooley was granted a new trial in May, 2017, when Judge James R. Schrand ruled evidence that would have aided in his defense was withheld from his attorneys.

Schrand also presided over the original trial, and is on the bench in this proceeding.

Earlier in the trial, several of Mockbee’s coworkers testified that she and her husband Dan Mockbee had a good relationship.

Mockbee also worked at Thermo Fisher Scientific at the time of his wife’s death and the defense has presented him as an alternate suspect in the killing, either directly, or as part of a conspiracy.

Computer expert Andrew Garrett testified Monday that he found evidence that dating websites had been accessed on the Mockbees home computers and on the computer Michelle Mockbee used at work.

“There was lots of dating sites – web sites,” Garrett said. “Some were dating sites that you went to – Fling.com, Adult Friend Finder, things like that.”

He said there was also evidence that Michelle Mockbee’s work computer accessed a dating website in March 2012. 

Defense expert Andrew Garrett (seated at right) testified Monday that an anti-forensic program used to erase computer files had to be started manually. The defense says Michelle Mockbee’s husband, Dan Mockbee, use the program to destroy information at the same time he got a call about trouble at the facility where his wife worked, on the day she was killed.

On cross-examination from Assistant Attorney General Jon Heck, Garrett said he did not know who else had access to Mockbee’s work computer.

In previous testimony, several witnesses stated Mockbee worked in an office that was locked.

Garrett said there was no evidence the Mockbees communicated with the dating sites or logged into them.

Garrett is the founder of Garrrett Discovery, a company that specializes in eDiscovery and computer forensics and acts as a legal consultant in court cases.

Garrett also challenged testimony from Boone County Sheriff’s Det. Tony VonDerHarr about how an anti-forensic program known as Cipher was accessed on the morning Mockbee was killed.

Cipher is activated using MS-DOS commands, which were common in the 90s, when personal computers were in their infancy, but are rarely used today.

“Cipher destroys files so they can’t be recovered,” Garrett said.

VonDerHaar testified that he made a copy of a hard drive on one of the Dooley’s home computers in 2012 and initially determined Cipher was not used the morning Mockbee was killed.

He stated he recently determined that he made an error by typing in the wrong information initially. He acknowledged that Cipher was accessed, but was not used, on the day Mockbee was killed.

VonDerHaar indicated the program initiated when the the computer booted up that morning.

Garrett said that isn’t possible.

Garrett also disputed VonDerHarr’s assertion that the Cipher program was accessed at 9:09 am., stating that Dan Mockbee would have been in his car at that time. He said the program was accessed at 8:09 a.m., the same time records show Dan Mockbee got a call from a coworker telling him there were police at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Garrett testified that he also reviewed a digital recorder used by former Boone County Sheriff’s Det. Bruce McVay.

David Dooley, right, waits for testimony to resume in his retrial Monday. He is charged with murder in the killing of Michelle Mockbee at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Boone County in 2012. Defense attorney Deanna Dennison is at left (photo by Mark Hansel).

McVay testified previously that the device malfunctioned during initial interviews with Dooley and Joseph Siegert, another Thermo Fisher Scientific employee.

Siegert has also been presented by the defense as a possible suspect in the killing.

Garrett said that even if the device malfunctioned, if the interview had started, there should have been some evidence of that.

He explained that the device kept track of each interview and assigned every one a number, in sequential order.

He said the numbers for Dooley’s and Siegert’s interviews were missing from the sequence and that only could have happened if the recordings were erased.

 Friday, Schrand told jurors that he was optimistic testimony would be completed Monday and that closing arguments and jury instructions could be given Tuesday, so deliberations could begin.

There is still a chance that could happen, but there is a split schedule today with just five hours set aside on the docket for this case.

Wednesday is an off day for this trial, because Schrand has other dockets to preside over, so it’s possible the jury will not begin deliberation until Thursday. 

For links to the NKyTribune’s extensive coverage of the Dooley case, click here.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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One Comment

  1. Dean Knolls says:

    McVay is beyond CORRUPT ! Perjured himself in cases for years. Thank goodness the Sheriffs office canned him………excuse me………. retired ( wink wink)

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