Police try to explain lack of crime scene evidence in a stabbing

Trish Mehaffey
Published: February 5 2014 | 2:28 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:13 am in

Cedar Rapids Police officers testifying Wednesday attempt to explain why a crime scene was released after an hour or so and why investigators didn't return until several hours later in an assault where a man was stabbed several times and suffered life-threatening injuries.

Officers and investigators testified there was little physical evidence at the crime scene where Frederick Rottmiller, 72, was found stabbed several times behind his apartment building at 112 Park Court SE, June 16, 2013. The weapon used in the assault wasn't found.

Linn County Chief Public Defender Brian Sissel said in his opening statement that police "contaminated" the crime scene and missed evidence like prints and blood on Rottmiller's truck and blood on Rottmiller's cell phone.

Gathercole, 52, is charged with attempted murder, first-degree robbery and willful injury. He is accused of stabbing  Rottmiller several times, causing life-threatening injuries. According to the criminal complaint, Gathercole asked Rottmiller for money for transportation but Rottmiller agreed to give him a ride when Gathercole attacked him.

Rottmiller testified Tuesday that Gathercole is the person that stabbed him that day. Rottmiller was stabbed in his stomach, eye and throat. The injuries left him blind in one eye and he can't walk as as result of the assault.

The trial started Monday and is expected to wrap up Thursday. The prosecution continues its case this afternoon in Linn County District Court.

Crime Scene Investigator John McDaniel testified he wasn't called out until 8 a.m. June 16, 2013. The stabbing incident occurred after 3 a.m. He found a fingerprint near the passenger side door handle of Rottmiller's truck but it couldn't be identified or tie Gathercole to the scene.

McDaniel said identification evidence, as they have in this case, is a valuable piece of information. A good identifiable print is difficult to find at a crime scene.

McDaniel said an outdoor crime scene is also difficult to deal with because of environmental conditions, such as wind and temperature.

Sissel questioned officers Tuesday and today why Rottmiller's wallet and cell, which Rottmiller said Gathercole  used after he stabbed him, weren't collected as evidence.

McDaniel said the wallet was made out of cloth-like material, which isn't likely to produce a print. He also didn't have the wallet after the incident. He did process the wallet but no prints were found.

Officers testified Tuesday that most of Rottmiller's personal items had been returned to him and weren't not collected as evidence.

McDaniel said other evidence collected included photos of Gathercole's hands for injuries. A suspect could be cut by a weapon used in a stabbing incident. Gathercole had small cuts on his left index finger. He also had small cuts and scratches on the back of his right hand and scratch on his wrist area.


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