A forensic pathologist testifying Wednesday as a prosecution expert disputed another pathologist’s earlier testimony that 8-year-old Bianca Cartagena died of natural causes related to an abnormality of the heart.
Dr. Kim A. Collins of Atlanta, Ga., instead blamed Bianca’s 2010 death on asphyxiation by head, neck or chest compression – with the possibility of smothering – and she determined the manner of death was homicide.
Candace Croff Cartagena, 35, is on trial in Erie County Court, accused of suffocating her daughter in her East Amherst home. Cartagena is charged with second-degree murder and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life if convicted.
Collins, whose testimony was not yet finished as of early this afternoon, is expected to be the final witness called before attorneys present their final arguments in front Judge Thomas P. Franczyk in the non-jury trial.
Collins’ opinions on the case after reviewing the autopsy, photographs and other forensic evidence differed dramatically from those given earlier in the trial by Dr. Jonathan Arden, a McLean, Va., pathologist hired by the defense.
Arden testified that he doubted Bianca died of asphyxia because she had very few of the injuries that typically would accompany such a death. Arden attributed Bianca’s death to an undiagnosed heart condition that led to sudden cardiac death.
But Collins testified that the condition mentioned by Arden, dilated cardiomyopathy, would only have been accompanied by many other symptoms, including internal scarring in her lungs and kidneys.
Bianca also would have exhibited coughing and edema in her extremities and had trouble breathing, and she probably would have passed out on occasion.
“She would’ve been very poorly developed, small for her age,” said Collins, forensic pathologist at Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “She just would’ve been an unhealthy child.”