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Update: Medical Examiner Testifies in Murder Trial for Former Dover School Custodian

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DOVER, Del.-- A state medical examiner on Wednesday testified in the murder trial for a former custodian at a Dover elementary school who was charged in the fatal shooting of another man in the parking lot of his workplace.

Jennifer Swartz, a medical examiner with the State of Delaware, testified during the trial for Rodney West that she could not determine the order in which four gunshot wounds were sustained by Derrick Combs outside Towne Point Elementary School on the night of Aug. 28, 2018.

West was charged with murder in Combs' death and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Both prosecutors and West's defense attorney, Joe Hurley, have acknowledged West opened fire on Combs during the parking lot confrontation, though Hurley argues the incident was self defense and not murder.

Prosecutors on Tuesday said during opening statements that Combs was shot twice while he was on the ground, though Swartz testified on Wednesday she could not determine the order in which the gunshots happened.

Swartz said two bullets causing gunshot wounds to Combs' abdomen traveled upwards. When prosecutor Sean Motoyoshi attempted to ask her if the wounds were consistent with someone lying on the ground, Hurley objected.

After a minutes-long conference, Motoyoshi withdrew the question and asked if the the wounds were consistent, in a hypothetical situation, with someone who may be lying on the ground. Swartz said they would be.

Detectives testify on evidence, tracking West

A Dover police detective on Wednesday testified that Rodney West, the suspect charged with murder following a shooting at Towne Point Elementary School last year, was tracked to Maryland using a device inside a car the former school custodian was driving.

In courtroom testimony, Det. Dale Boney said an OnStar device in a vehicle West was renting from a Ford dealer was used to determine West's location the day after the Aug. 28, 2018 shooting in the school's parking lot. Derrick Combs was killed in that incident.

Boney said he was also listening to a call between West and Towne Point Principal Tori Giddens on the evening of the shooting in which West said he had been blocked in by Combs.

Additionally, another Dover Police Detective testified about finding a handgun and 15 rounds of ammunition in a truck belonging to Combs that was found at the scene. Combs, according to the investigator, was also wearing an empty firearm holster.

Lawyers on both sides of the case have said West and Combs' wife had exchanged texts messages of a sexual nature, with Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal saying Combs himself had become upset over the messages.

Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal said Derrick Combs had been angered about contact between West and Leslie Combs the day before the shooting, which preceded the fatal confrontation in the Towne Point parking lot.

Defense Attorney Joe Hurley, who is representing West, said the former custodian was defending himself against what he believed to be a deadly threat when Combs confronted him in the parking lot, believing he may have been armed with a gun. 

 

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