Case evidence points to Ihander

Ilsa Matthes | Daily Press Gregory Ihander and his attorney, Karen Groenhaut, look at notes during a brief recess Thursday. Ihander is charged with the murder of Jolene Eichhorn.

MENOMINEE — Witness testimony continued Thursday in Menominee County Circuit Court, as jurors listened to experts and law enforcement describe how evidence related to the murder of Jolene Eichhorn and the subsequent arrest of Gregory S. Ihander was collected and processed.

Ihander, 49, was arrested Sept. 9, 2015, when a bag of bloody items was found in his home hours after Eichhorn’s body was found in the trunk of her car at the Cedar River Harbor Marina. She was 43 years old at the time of her death.

According to testimony given Thursday by multiple officers from the Michigan State Police, during a search of Ihander’s mobile home following the murder, the garbage bag of bloody items was discovered in Ihander’s bathtub.

“There were 16 different items in the trash bag,” said Lisa Oravetz of the Michigan State Police Marquette forensic lab’s biology unit and crime scene response team, who specializes in identifying biological fluids and contact DNA on evidence. She processed the items at the scene.

Further investigation at the scene by forensic specialists discovered blood in other areas of the home including under the kitchen table, near the kitchen sink, and on a door frame leading to the garage attached to the mobile home.

Other samples that could be tested for DNA and other bodily fluids were also taken from Eichhorn’s car when it was found at the harbor and from Eichhorn’s autopsy. During that autopsy, swabs were taken to determine if a sexual assault had occurred prior to her death.

According to testimony given earlier in the week by Dr. George Krzymowski, a pathologist at the morgue at Upper er Peninsula Health in Marquette, Eichhorn’s autopsy revealed that she bled to death due to a deep stab wound in her chest that severed her cartoid artery, and that Eichhorn had wounds on her hands consistent with attempting to grab a sharp object from an attacker.

In addition to samples from clothing belonging to Ihander that he was wearing at the time of his arrest — some of which were stained with small amounts of blood — and swabs from under his finger nails at the jail, samples were taken from the blade and handle of a hunting knife found at Ihander’s home and the inside of a blood-stained glove found in the garbage bag of bloody items.

Not all of the samples that were taken at the crime scenes or from subsequent evidence have been tested for DNA. The handle of the knife and the inside of the glove, for example, have not been tested.

“Per our procedure manual, I can only send at maximum seven samples at one time in a homicide (investigation). This is due to the fact that DNA analysis is in very high demand and we have limited resources, so they put a cap on the number of samples that I can send at one time,” said Oravetz.

Much of the decision of what needed to be tested was based on how useful information would ultimately be to the investigation. The handle of the knife, for instance, would probably have traces of Ihander’s DNA on it regardless of whether or not he had wielded it against Eichhorn simply because it was his knife and found in his home.

One sample taken from Ihander’s home did raise some questions for the defense. The blood stain on the door frame of Ihander’s garage tested positive for DNA from another, unknown male. While DNA analysis is not Oravetz’ area, she did work with other agencies and was aware of the unknown DNA and attempted to get samples from other subjects who could be compared to the sample. These “elimination samples” would, at the very least, prove whose DNA didn’t match the unknown individual.

During her discussions with other experts, one theory that Oravetz learned of was that Eichhorn was removed from the home on a sleeping bag, and that dragging the bag through the door had left the blood on the frame. She discussed collecting samples from the bag to be sent off for analysis, but ultimately the bag was not tested.

“I asked for elimination samples rather than submitting the sleeping bag, because if the sleeping bag was swabbed you’d have two unknown DNA profiles, you still don’t know who they belong to,” said Oravetz.

Also during the day, Dr. Carla Walker, medical and laboratory director of MEDTOX, a company that does toxicological analysis based in St. Paul, Minn., took the stand to report on MEDTOX’s analysis of Eichhorn’s remains.

According to Walker, Eichhorn’s system did not contain any drugs or alcohol at the time of her death based on the screening. However, some medications, including some she may have been prescribed, have half-lives that make testing difficult.

“The blood drug screen was negative… it’s a comprehensive screen that we preformed. No screen contains every compound known to man but this is a fairly comprehensive screen,” she said, adding that it would screen for controlled substances, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and over-the-counter drugs.