Philadelphia’s chief medical examiner, Sam Gulino, determines how a person was killed: shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, strangled, poisoned.
In the case of Regina Brunner-Holmes, that list was impossible to narrow down.
The best that Gulino could tell a Philadelphia jury Wednesday was that the 85-year-old East Mount Airy grandmother died from a “combination of multiple stab wounds, strangulation, and blunt trauma to her head.”
Gulino’s testimony ended the second day of the trial of Leroy Wilson, 38, the handyman charged with murder in the June 27, 2015, attack that left Brunner-Holmes' body unrecognizable.
The Common Pleas Court jury of six men and six women sat quietly as Gulino narrated grisly crime-scene and autopsy photos that cataloged more than a score of injuries, almost all to the head and neck.
Assistant District Attorney Alisa Shver asked Gulino if he could say which of the three forms of injury would most likely have killed Brunner-Holmes.
“No,” said Gulino. “What I can say is that she was alive for all of these forms of injury.”
The body was found June 29 after an editor at the Chestnut Hill Local called her son Adam to say that the obsessively punctual octogenarian had failed to report for work.
Adam Brunner testified that he and his wife went to his mother’s home, in the 300 block of East Roumfort Road, and met a police officer, who got into the rancher. Brunner-Holmes was lying face up on the floor of her blood-spattered bedroom. A bloodied, broken rolling pin was nearby, and several of her purses had been emptied on the bed.
Wilson came under suspicion almost immediately because he had done work for Brunner-Holmes and several other people nearby.
Within days, investigators arrived at a house in the 3100 block of North Stillman Street in North Philadelphia, where Wilson was living with former girlfriend Micshell Hoskins.
They found Brunner-Holmes’ silver 2007 Toyota Corolla parked at 25th Street and Allegheny Avenue, a block away.
Hoskins, 41, testified that at 3 a.m. on June 28, she was awake, feeding her month-old daughter by Wilson, when she heard a knock at the front door and figured it was Wilson, asking to be let in.
When she opened the door, Hoskins said, Wilson’s first words were, “I caught a body,” which she said she understood to mean he had killed someone.
Hoskins said Wilson later gave her a laptop computer and a gift card, opened the laptop, brought up the website of Babies R Us and told her, “Get what you want.”
“I knew they were stolen,” Hoskins said, adding that she saw the name “Regina” written on the bottom of the computer.
Nevertheless, Hoskins filled the virtual shopping cart with diapers, a swing, and other items, and handed the laptop back to Wilson to charge with a gift card.
The items never arrived, she said.
Defense attorney Earl G. Kauffman has argued that Wilson got Brunner-Holmes’ stolen property but did not kill her.
Questioning Hoskins, Kauffman suggested that another former boyfriend was the one who entered Brunner-Holmes’ house and killed her.
Kauffman also elicited from Hoskins that Wilson was not wearing bloodstained clothing when he arrived that morning.
Kauffman also noted that Hoskins has yet to be tried on stolen-property charges and that Hoskins admitted that she hoped her testimony would result in a favorable sentence for her.