Prosecution calls professor in murder trial

HUDSON—A former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor appeared to bolster the prosecution’s case, while a sporting goods salesman and hockey enthusiast did not as testimony in the murder retrial of Warren Powell moved into its fourth day Wednesday, April 8.
     Both men were witnesses for the prosecution in the case against Mr. Powell, 38, who is charged with second degree murder in the death of his pregnant wife, Mary Ann (Tasick) Powell on or about October 1, 1994. Her body was discovered in the Hudson River May 25, 1996 by campers hiking near Gay’s Point in Stockport. Mrs. Powell, 21, was strangled to death and stuffed in a hockey bag weighted with rocks.
     Mr. Powell was previously convicted of the crime in August 1997 but won an appeal of that conviction in December 2004.
     Professor Martin E. Glicksman, the former chairman of the material science and engineering program at RPI and a professor of metallurgical and material engineering, conducted pattern tests on the seats of an aluminum boat purchased by Mr. Powell October 1, 1994, the day his wife disappeared, and on the bottom of the hockey bag that contained Mrs. Powell’s body.
     Columbia County District Attorney Beth Cozzolino had contacted Professor Glicksman in 1996 after seeing media coverage of his pattern recognition and analysis work for NASA on the Columbia Space Shuttle. Specialized computer software allowed Prof. Glicksman to digitize photos of the scuff marks on the boat seats and the ridged bottom of the hockey bag.
     During questioning this week by Assistant District Attorney H. Neal Conolly, who is prosecuting the case with David Costanzo, Prof. Glicksman said he reached the conclusion that the marks on the boat seats and the grooved hockey bag bottom matched within a scientific certainty greater than 98%.   
     He concluded that the bottom of the bag had been dragged across the aluminum seats, which caused a small amount of material from the surface of the bag’s vinyl to “scuff off” on the seats, leaving a recognizable pattern behind.
     The witness said any difference between the marks on the seat and the pattern on the bottom of the bag found in the river was likely due to the 200 or so pounds of weight in the bag and the exposure to water. A State Police investigator previously testified that the body and the stones together weighed almost 200 pounds.
     During cross-examination by defense attorney Stephen Coffey, Prof. Glicksman acknowledged that he relied on information provided by State Police as to when the bag and the boat seats came into contact and that he had no independent knowledge of the timeframe, though he said he “did have an independent way of making that determination.
     “Some details are unknowable,” said the professor.
     Mr. Coffey contends that State Police made the marks on the boat seats after the body of Mrs. Powell in the hockey bag was recovered.
     The final witness of the day was John Knight of Chatham, who owned a large hockey bag emblazoned with the CCM brand logo, which was stored at his Aunt Alice’s farm in Valatie, where Mr. Powell stored his boat. Mr. Knight said he had received many sample hockey bags and other sports equipment during his employment with a Schenectady sporting goods store in the early 1990s.
     He told the court he contacted State Police after learning that Mrs. Powell’s body was found in a hockey bag to let them know he had one of that description that was missing.
     But when Mr. Conolly asked Mr. Knight when he discovered the bag missing, he first said it was the winter of 1994 and when asked to be more specific, said December 1994 or January 1995. That is well after Mrs. Powell’s disappeared in October 1994.
Testimony resumed Thursday.

To contact reporter Diane Valden email  

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