CLINTON — Closing arguments began this morning in the trial of alleged murderer Benaiah Mablin, with the case expected to be handed over to the jury later today for deliberation.

On Thursday, the eight-woman, four-man jury watched the final minutes of a two-part video in which Mablin was interviewed by police in an interrogation room at the Clinton Police Department. In the tape, Mablin first told authorities he was assaulted by an unknown individual at the Tucker Building apartment of Sandra Chambers-Singh on Dec. 13, but later admitted he and Chambers-Singh argued over drugs; he said he stabbed her four to five times after she attacked him with a weapon. The final moments of the video show Clinton Police Detective Dannie Howard placing Mablin under arrest and Officer Tony Stone escorting him from the room for transport to the Clinton County Jail.

On Thursday morning, Howard briefly testified and said he collected Mablin’s black Nike tennis shoes after the interview on Dec. 14 as evidence in the case. After the shoes were admitted as an exhibit, Howard explained that a secondary bag stapled to the current evidence bag was the original evidence container he had placed the shoes in and the second bag was for storage at the laboratory.

Defense attorney Bruce Ingham had no questions for the detective and he was dismissed from the stand.

The final prosecution witness was Dr. Michele Catellier, an associate medical examiner for the state of Iowa and board certified forensic pathologist. She testified that she performed the autopsy on Chambers-Singh and received the body in a sealed body bag, then photographed the body as received. Catellier stated she determined the cause of Chambers-Singh’s death to be multiple stab wounds and the manner of death as homicide. She estimated the victim sustained between 18 to 20 stab wounds and several smaller scratches, but said there was no way to determine in what order the wounds were inflicted.

Catellier stated some of the wounds were superficial, only involving the top layer of skin, soft tissue and fat, while others penetrated deep enough to damage organs, veins or arteries. Because the wounds varied between 1 1/4-inch to 2 1/2 inches deep, she estimated the weapon to have been a blade approximately one centimeter in width and 1 1/4- to 2-inches in length. She stated that a wound on the lower right side of Chambers-Singh’s face was 1 3/8-inches deep and entered the base of the tongue and fractured the jaw.

Catellier detailed several wounds to the face, neck and shoulders, including a wound in front of the right ear lobe that entered the soft tissue from the cheek, into the neck and disrupted the carotid artery. She described one wound to the right side of the back of the neck, which cut into deeper tissue through the neck muscle and cut the right jugular vein, and another on the mid-aspect of the left facial cheek that entered 2 3/16 inches deep into the neck structure.

After a break for lunch, Catellier explained several photographs taken during the autopsy and the wounds depicted in each photograph. She stated that Chambers-Singh’s body had possible defense wounds on her right wrist and palm, suggesting the possibility that two of the wounds occurred at the same time if Chambers-Singh had wrapped her hand around a blade. She explained a defense wound as wound in a location consistent with what one would expect as inflicted in warding off an attacker’s blows.

Catellier added that Chambers-Singh suffered blunt force injuries, including having bruises on her lower lip, two small bruises at the front of the neck, a Y-shaped scratch on the front of the neck, a superficial abrasion or scrape on the side of the right eye and a pressure indentation on the forehead, likely from the head resting on something.

Catellier stated Chambers-Singh also had cardiovascular problems, including a hardening of the artery in a portion of the right coronary artery and a localized infection in a heart valve, or endocarditis. She said the problems were not significant enough to list as a contributing factor in the death.

Regarding the results of toxicology tests performed on blood and tissue samples from Chambers-Singh, Catellier said the presence of cocaine or metabolites were detected and the blood alcohol content was .05 percent. In cross-examination, Ingham questioned what effects the use of cocaine and alcohol could have on a person. Catellier said effects of drugs and alcohol vary depending on several factors including the amount consumed, weight and tolerance. She noted that in general, cocaine can cause an increase in blood pressure, excitement, euphoria, agitation, excess strength, paranoia or aggression. She said alcohol generally can cause euphoria, increased feelings of power, giddiness or stupor, but reiterated that effects vary. Ingham asked if alcohol can cause a change in judgment, and Catellier said it could depending on the individual and the level of alcohol.

In relation to questions about the wounds and possible weapon used to inflict the wounds, Catellier said the blade could have been longer than she estimated, which was likely if the knife had not been plunged completely, and noted she could not determine the position of the body at the time the wound was inflicted, only the location of the blade with respect to the body.

After questioning by Ingham, Catellier acknowledged that she could not absolutely state the wounds to the right palm and wrist were defensive wounds as Chambers-Singh could have been injured without defending herself.

After Catellier was dismissed as a witness, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf announced the prosecution was ready to rest its case. Clinton County District Court Judge Mark Cleve excused the jury and after the jury had left, Ingham offered a defense motion for a directed verdict of acquittal on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence for a finding of fact that a reasonable person could find beyond a reasonable doubt that a first- or second-degree murder had occurred. Iowa Assistant Attorney General James Kivi stated there is certainly sufficient evidence for such a finding. Cleve agreed and denied the defense motion.

Ingham then spoke with his client on the record, asking Mablin if he understood that it was now his turn to present evidence and that the burden of proof is that of the prosecution.

Mablin acknowledged his understanding and Ingham asked his client if he was aware that he is not required to testify, to which he replied affirmatively. Ingham noted that he had spoken with his client regarding whether or not to testify, saying he recommended Mablin not take the stand and that the defense could request the jury be instructed to infer no guilt by his decision not to testify and Mablin agreed.

Mablin advised the judge he decided he would not be testifying.

As the jury returned at 2:15 p.m., Ingham stated the defense rested. Cleve announced closing arguments would begin at 9 a.m. today and then the case would be released for deliberation.

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