Defense’s first witnesses back Kendhammer’s account
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Prosecutors rested their case and the defense called its first witnesses to the stand Monday in day six of the Todd Kendhammer murder trial.
The West Salem man is on trial for first-degree intentional homicide in the death of his wife, Barbara Kendhammer. He’s accused of staging an accident in which a pipe went through his car’s windshield as he was driving, killing his wife, who was in the passenger seat.
The defense called upon a glass expert and a biomechanics consultant who both backed up Kendhammer’s account of what happened to his wife on a Friday morning last year.
Last week, prosecutors called upon state crime lab expert Nick Stahlke, who testified that the windshield had four impact points, the last coming after the impact which made the hole.
But the defendent’s glass expert witness, Mark Meshulam, who took the stand the whole morning Monday, determined there were three fracture points, all lining up with Kendhammer’s story.
“The first one was a hand impact when Mr. Kendhammer’s fist went into the glass,” Meshulam said. He said Kendhammer tried to deflect the object from the inside. “The second was the pipe puncture, and the third was a prying action that took place when the pipe was removed from the hole in the glass.”
“Do you consider yourself to be an advocate for the defendent?” district attorney Tim Gruenke asked.
“I don’t consider myself to be an advocate,” Meshulam said.
Meshulam was followed Monday afternoon by biomechanics expert Barry Bates, whose expertise is in how forces act upon human bodies.
Bates’s testimony contradicted the autopsy results. He believes that Barbara Kendhammer reflexively ducked to avoid the pipe, resulting in three major injuries, which he said were her head gashes, broken nose and neck injury. He said the three injuries began with the pipe’s impact and occurred sequentially within the vehicle.
Bates also testified that the placement of glass shards in the vehicle doesn’t change his opinion, and the lack of blood on the passenger side headrest isn’t necessarily relevant to his theory.
Gruenke questioned Bates’s background in crime scene investigation and medicine.
Gruenke also asked both expert witnesses how much the defense is paying them. So far, Bates has been paid $14,000 in this case.
Meshulam said he couldn’t recall exactly how much he has been paid, but said he charges between $240 and $350 an hour and had spent more than 10 hours on the case.
Bates also admitted to Gruenke that he didn’t believe that a pipe could have rolled off a truck and gone through the windshield in the way Kendhammer described.
“Well, I don’t either,” Gruenke told him.
Instead, Bates said, the pipe may have been kicked up by a vehicle.
Gruenke asked if a person could reasonably use enough force to put a pipe through a windshield.”
Men have put rocks through windows, phones through windows,” Gruenke said.
“And I’ve seen people try to penetrate a windshield and not succeed the first try,” Bates said.
“Like in this case,” Gruenke said. “Thank you.”
Todd Kendhammer will take the stand Tuesday.
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