Witness testifies Maggie Wigen was raped before she was killed

DA hopes to rest case Monday after medical examiner's testimony

Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2005

Maggie Wigen was sexually assaulted before she was killed two years ago, jurors heard Friday, a day after a witness alleged the man standing trial in her death had previously tried to rape her.

James Harmon, 26, charged in the death of the 19-year-old woman, also left almost all of the identifiable fingerprints found in the Tenakee Springs cabin Wigen rented, another witness said before the end of the trial's second week of testimony.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen said Friday that he hopes to rest his case Monday with testimony from the Alaska Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Franc Fallico, who performed the autopsy.

Wigen's body was found the week after she was reported missing, on April 1, 2003. She was buried in an earth dam near the cabin she rented in the island community 45 miles southwest of Juneau. Harmon was charged with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted sexual assault and second-degree theft relating to her death.

Friday, Tara Henry, a registered nurse and specialist in sexual-assault examinations who assisted Fallico in the autopsy, said she reached her conclusion of assault after finding three tears to Wigen's hymen. Henry said she found internal bruising and hemorrhaging.

"In my opinion this is a sex-related homicide," Henry said.

Previously Gullufsen had told jurors that Wigen was sexually inexperienced by choice. Henry said her finding of a hymen does not prove virginity.

In addition to the nature of the injuries, Wigen's state of undress and the determination that she was strangled supported a a finding of sexual-assault homicide, Henry said. The three most common ways that rape victims are killed are strangulation, stabbing and blunt-force trauma.

Henry said she found no fluids that could identify the assailant. She also said she did not know what was used in the assault - only that it didn't have a sharp point.

Gullufsen asked his witness how she could determine it was a sexual assault if there wasn't any semen.

"Just because you don't find DNA or sperm doesn't mean it wasn't there," Henry answered, explaining that fluids decompose. In a deceased person, such evidence wouldn't be found after seven days. When the autopsy was performed on April 7, 2003, she said, she believed Wigen had been dead for about 12 days.

Henry also cited the possibilities of sexual dysfunction, interruption of the assault or a foreign object being used.

On Thursday, Deena Wisenbaugh, a friend of Wigen, testified that she found Harmon attacking Wigen in the cabin after a 2003 New Year's Eve party.

She said she found Wigen beneath Harmon on the floor, telling him to stop. Wisenbaugh said she separated the two, and Wigen, who had been drinking, later told her she didn't believe she was raped.

Henry on Friday presented no evidence connecting Harmon to Wigen.

Gullufsen's next witness testified that Harmon's were the most prominent fingerprints in Wigen's cabin, including on unwashed dishes.

Lawrence Pippin, a fingerprint examiner and crime scene investigator for the state of Alaska, testified that he could find only 22 identifiable fingerprints in Wigen's cabin. One, at the entrance, was left by the first state trooper to visit the cabin, Christopher Umbs. One was left by Wigen, on a box of Mr. Barky's Vegetarian Dog Biscuits.

Pippin identified 19 fingerprints that he matched with Harmon. Using a pair of easels in front of a jury, he showed what the cabin prints looked like and what Harmon's inked fingerprints looked like, and explained how they corresponded.

The witness told the jury Harmon's prints were found in places including the bottom of a dinner pate, on a salsa container, on a box of doughnuts found in the trash, on a pretzel bag, on a can of black olives, on a flashlight and on a bowl on the kitchen counter.

"Is it unusual to find one fingerprint from the person who lives there?" Gullufsen asked.

"Many times you don't get fingerprints from the people you know live there," Pippin answered. Some surfaces and some conditions make it difficult for people to leave fingerprints, he explained.

Assistant Public Defender David Seid on cross-examination asked if he could tell the age of fingerprints.

Pippin answered that he couldn't.

Gullufsen asked what would happen if fingerprints were on a dish that was then washed.

"It would be totally taken off the dish," Pippin answered.

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