Brown paper packages tied up in… tape

Graphic photos, a blood-stained car seat, and a pair of woman's underpants were some of the nearly 60 exhibits introduced this morning as the murder trial of Anthony Dale Crawford entered its second day in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

Surrounded by piles of evidence wrapped in brown paper and sealed with red evidence tape, assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Zug spent three hours examining two police witnesses, going over in painstaking detail their discovery of the body of Sarah Louise Crawford in the Quality Inn on November 22, 2004.

Officer Mike Flaherty, a senior forensic technician for the Charlottesville Police, described entering room 118 at the Quality Inn after being called by the hotel manager to investigate an overdue room. A "do not disturb" sign hung on the door, but as soon as he entered, he testified, "I could smell decay."

The television was turned on with the volume high, and the air conditioner was running on the cool November night, Flaherty testified. He and fellow officer Lynn Childers "cleared the room," checking for anyone who might be hiding, when they noticed a "lump" in the bed. When they pulled back the covers, they discovered the nude body of Sarah Crawford, posed in a "froglike" position with her knees out, ankles crossed, with her hands resting on her lower abdomen. She was dead and had been for some time, said Flaherty, describing grisly post-mortem conditions of "rigor mortis," "lividity," and flesh "marbling."

On a large screen television, Zug displayed disturbing images of Sarah Crawford and the crime scene, including a wound measuring approximately 5mm on the right side of her chest, under her arm. Members of Ms. Crawford's family were not present during this portion of the trial, but arrived after the graphic testimony and imagery were complete.

Detective Mark Fields took the stand next, and testified both about the condition of the room and about apprehending Mr. Crawford in Jacksonville several days later in his dead wife's maroon Hyundai Sonata. Fields described a red stain on the right side of the driver's seat and the fact that the driver's side window was missing. Fragments of glass, he said, were found in the door frame. Officers conducted tests to determine if a gun had been fired inside the car, but the results of those tests were not made clear during his testimony.

The trial resumes this afternoon with defense attorney Denise Lunsford's cross examination of Fields. The trial is expected to last through Friday.

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