Man Accused of Medically Impossible Murder

Suttle hired lawyers Paul Bruno and Kerry Haymaker, who unlike almost everyone in Pulaski didn't understand what reason he would have to kill his cousin.

The prosecution felt the main motive was money -- pointing to $300 Suttle admitted to taking from his cousin's pockets after his death -- but Suttle was well-positioned financially. He made money in Las Vegas and had recently sold a new type of video poker game he helped develop.

"It didn't make any sense," Haymaker said. "We're not talking about a lot of money."

Juror: Suttle Painted as Gambler in Trial

During the trial, the prosecution attacked Suttle's character, according to juror Carla Cobbs Parr.

"The fact that he was a poker player, you know, he lived in Nevada, [they] presented him as a gambler … a runaround I guess," Parr said. "You go, hmm. Maybe depending on how deep into gambling he is, maybe there was something that just set him off."

Since Suttle was the only person present at the time of Hobbs' death, the dominating factor in the case was the medical examiner's report by Harlan, which said Hobbs had been stabbed.

Jurors seemed to believe Harlan -- by then a 30-year veteran who had testified thousands of times in his career.

Forensics Expert Comes to Suttle's Rescue

With the jury seemingly leaning toward convicting Suttle, retired forensics anthropologist Bill Bass's testimony turned the case upside down. The renowned forensics expert, who created a new specialty of criminology investigation and typically testified for the prosecution, said something about the autopsy in Suttle's case bothered him.

"I looked at the autopsy and what [medical examiner Dr. Charles Harlan] says in the autopsy happened could not happen, could not have happened," said Bass, referring to the alleged stabbing of Hobbs by Suttle. "But I don't like to make statements like 'You can't do this' unless I do a little research for it."

Bass is also the founder of the "body farm," a research facility located behind an unmarked gate in Knoxville, Tenn., where human bodies are left unburied so scientists can study what happens to them over time.

"I went out to the body farm and used one of the bodies that we'd just gotten in and did an incision in the back, on the left-hand side," he said.

Bass took a cadaver and a steel rod and tried to re-create the stab wound and the path of the stab wound as described by Harlan. The results of Bass's experiment completely contradicted Harlan's testimony.

"What happened was that Dr. Bass, from the University of Tennessee, basically impeached the testimony of Dr. Harlan," said Dunavant. "We were blindsided."

According to Bass, to get from the entry point on Hobbs' back to the site of the wound on the right lung, a sharp instrument would have had to make a right-angle turn inside the body -- a maneuver Bass was not able to make using the steel rod.

"Physically it cannot be done," Bass said. "I'm 100 percent, not 99 and 44/100ths percent, I'm 100 percent sure."

Bass and a forensics colleague had gone even further. They not only knew Suttle did not kill his cousin, they knew who did.

"About two weeks before he falls on the coffee table, [Hobbs] had been in a fight," said Bass. "They beat him up fairly bad. And when you look at the autopsy, there's a rib that is splintered in there. And this rib is jabbing into the back of the lung and [had] taken about two weeks to kill him."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...