PLATTSBURGH — A local pathologist testified Wednesday that murder victim David Donivan suffered 32 wounds during the violent attack that ended his life.
CVPH Chief Pathologist Dr. Michael Ladwig took the stand in Clinton County Court during Edward Dashnaw's trial in connection with the December 2005 murders of David and Lorraine Donivan.On Dec. 30, 2005, Ladwig began autopsy procedures on a body that was discovered hidden among debris in the basement of their Schuyler Falls home/business the previous day.After descending into the CVPH morgue early that morning, Ladwig strapped on a face mask, latex gloves and bright-blue medical gown to prepare for the lengthy procedure.He was accompanied by the Clinton County coroner, hospital personnel, State Police investigators and a local dentist, who identified the deceased body to be David Donivan, the co-owner of the House of Pine and Oak furniture store."(First) I heard some of the circumstances of how the body was found," Ladwig testified.Officials continued photographing the bloated body as Ladwig conducted external and internal examinations, including the stab wounds on his chest, thigh, abdomen, hands and arms, which were determined to have been caused by a single-bladed knife.He also documented several defensive stab wounds on Mr. Donivan's left forearm and a boxer-like fracture of his right hand.
The most significant wound, of the 32 total stab cuts to Mr. Donivan's body, appeared to be a gouge in the center of his chest."I concluded that was the stab wound that resulted in the cause of death. It was the most lethal injury he sustained," testified Ladwig.He explained that the wound sliced the aorta, a large artery that extends from the heart, which resulted in asphyxiation and death.Upon further questioning by District Attorney Andrew Wylie, Ladwig explained that the other wounds would likely have been "survivable" and that the wooden-handled steak knife that authorities secured from the Donivan's kitchen sink could have been the murder weapon.
Later that day, after the procedure was completed, Ladwig visited the Donivans' 4 Birchwood Drive property to see the home and the place where the body was hidden in the days following his death."I walked around and observed the scene. It gave me a sense of the environmental conditions the body had been exposed to," said Ladwig, who explained that the cool temperatures of the basement and decomposition of the body led him to believe that Mr. Donivan's death occurred "about a week or so" earlier.Ladwig, whose 12-page autopsy report was not permitted into evidence, also testified about the toxicology analysis, which detected a small amount of "consumable" alcohol in Mr. Donivan's system at the time of death.
Before Ladwig took the stand, State Police Investigator Rose Recor returned to the Clinton County courtroom and provided testimony about identifying the body of Mrs. Donivan.When the female body was located in the furniture warehouse loft on Dec. 31, 2005, Recor went to the storage area and identified it to be Mrs. Donivan, her former neighbor and high-school friend.When asked how she recognized the slain body, Recor said, "We remained friends after high school."Trooper Darren Dickerson also returned to the stand during the morning to complete his previous testimony about documenting, securing and transporting pieces of evidence, sparking a lengthy cross-examination by Dashnaw's attorney Stephen Johnston about the evidence-transfer forms.Ladwig is expected to testify about Mrs. Donivan's autopsy procedures when the trial before Judge Patrick McGill resumes at 10 a.m. today.