SOUTH BEND – A forensic pathologist told a St. Joseph County jury it’s “essentially impossible” to know how long two New Carlisle boys were trapped in the trunk of their mother’s car before they became overheated.
A jury listened to heartbreaking details Tuesday in day two of Jacqueline Wilk’s trial. She’s accused of neglecting her two children.
Jacqueline Wilk found her 2- and 4-year-old sons in her car trunk in her driveway in june 2011. Both boys died.
Detectives testified the outdoor temperature was about 84 degrees when they were found just before 3 p.m. on that hot June day in 2011, but it's not clear how hot the car was or how long it took for hyperthermia to set in on the boys.
The pathologist who performed autopsies on both little boys said Hollywood has a way of portraying people who do his job as being able to scientifically answer every question that comes up in a case, but this one is impossible to answer because there are so many factors, including the outdoor temperature, where the vehicle is parked, the color of paint and what else may have been in the trunk at the time.
He said it’s possible for the boys to have been in the trunk anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour.
The jury heard a lot of testimony Tuesday from police officers and at times it was tough to listen.
The first responding police officer to the home in New Carlisle told jurors he got there within one minute of the 911 dispatch.
"The 4-year-old, he was gasping, trying to get air," said New Carlisle officer Brian Thompson on the witness stand. "I grabbed his head and tried to do a chin lift, head tilt, so he could get more air."
Thompson also said the child's head felt "very hot," and he blew air across it, trying to cool him down.
In cross examination, the defense attorney asked that officer if he overheard any of Jacqueline Wilk's cell phone conversations after he arrived on the scene.
"She did make the statement that she lost track of the babies and was looking for them for approximately one hour before discovering them in the trunk," Thompson replied.
Metro Homicide detective Anthony Bontrager testified about his two conversations with Wilk later that day at the hospital.
"Did the defendant provide some information about what she remembered doing around the time of the incident?" asked the prosecuting attorney.
"I believe she was studying, possibly reading a book," said Detective Bontrager.
"Was there information about possibly falling asleep?" the prosecutor asked.
"I believe so," Bontrager replied.
A Metro Homicide technician told the jury he spent hours "teching" the House for evidence. Part of that included searching the home for evidence of neglect. He testified he didn't find evidence that the children weren't being cared for but did see something that seemed "out of place."
"In the kitchen, I saw a stool had been pushed right next to the countertop, and right next to that was sticky buns, and the cabinet was open," said Detective Tom Cameron. "It was my opinion the children had accessed the cabinet on their own by climbing up on the counter to get to the pantry."
The detectives also testified they looked for a school book or any type of evidence in the home to back up Wilk's story that she had been studying downstairs around the time the boys became trapped in her car trunk, but they never found it.
Police also inspected Wilk's cell phone at the hospital the day her sons died and later subpeonaed her cell and home phone records and her Facebook account to try and get a better idea of a timeline of events that day and corroborate it with the story she had given them.
Detective Galen Pelletier testified Wilk received a phone call on her cell at 11:28 a.m., a text message at 1:09 p.m. and responded to the text an hour later at 2:04 p.m. She made the 911 call from the land line at 2:58 p.m. and sent a text message to the father of one of her children at 3:04 p.m.
The Facebook subpoena showed no activity on her account, but that didn't mean she wasn't browsing the social networking site from her cell phone, Pelletier said.¿
Jurors also heard testimony from the pathologist about scrapes and bruises on the boys' hands, arms and faces as well as blood stains in the trunk that could suggest they struggled to try and get out. But in cross examination, the pathologist said he could not scientifically say for sure those injuries resulted from a struggle that may have occurred inside the trunk.
Wilk agreed to blood and mouth swab tests at the hospital later that night. Both came back negative, showing there were no drugs or alcohol in her system.
Wilk is being charged with two felony "neglect of a dependent" charges but jurors heard a lot of testimony Tuesday implying the boys lived in a loving home and were well taken care of.
Metro Homicide detectives testified there was enough food in the house, and they had the basic needs - heat, air conditioning, beds and clothing.
The pathologist who performed the boys' autopsies said both appeared to be very healthy and normal, other than the injuries they apparently received the same day they died.¿
Wilk has been visibly upset during the trial, wiping away tears and quietly crying.
She's having to re-live the day and the events leading up to the death of her boys and it's obviously very difficult for her.
Wednesday jurors will listen to 90 minutes of a nearly 2 hour statement Wilk gave Metro Homicide detectives 4 days after she found the boys. The state is expected to rest and the defense will likely begin its evidence presentation.¿
The case is expected to go to the jury Wednesday or Thursday. It's not clear if Wilk will testify, but she legally has the option to do so.