Autopsy confirms Reed was shot at close range

MAYVILLE – Both the coroner and medical examiner who jointly performed the autopsy on Keith Reed Jr., the slain Clymer Central School superintendent, confirmed that the victim was shot at close range, even indicating a muzzle imprint on the body.

The two medical professionals were the only witnesses that Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley and his prosecution team brought to the stand Wednesday as the trial of Anthony R. Taglianetti quickly moved from Tuesday’s emotional roller coaster ride to the more analytical world of forensics.

James Jackson, Chautauqua County coroner, and Dr. Dianne Vertes, Erie County Medical Center chief medical examiner, stood in front of a panoply of photographs and diagrams of Reed’s body, indicating to the 16-person jury – four of whom are alternates – where and how exactly Reed was shot.

“(The bullet holes) appear to be small,” Jackson said. “(These wounds) were likely caused by a small-caliber weapon.”

Reed’s entrance wounds and corresponding exit wounds were: in the front mid-chest, out the lower-left abdomen; in the back-left shoulder, out the front-left shoulder; and in the upper-left back, out the lower-right chest.

The last of these was deemed the “fatal shot” by both Jackson and Vertes, as it went through Reed’s chest cavity and punctured his lungs, esophagus, aorta, heart, diaphragm and liver. The entrance wound also showed evidence of a muzzle imprint.

“This is a definite muzzle imprint,” said Vertes, pointing to an enlarged photograph of Reed’s back wound. “There is a semi-circular abrasion on the left side of the wound (which shows the muzzle was in contact with the skin).”

Vertes described how all of Reed’s entrance wounds showed classic signs of close-range penetration, describing the sooty patterns, metal filings, inverted skin and abrasions around the wounds as red flags.

Other findings included four blue to purple spots, approximately 1.5 to 3.2 cm in diameter, found on Reed’s right forearm. A diagonal blue abrasion was also spotted on the back of Reed’s left thigh.

Vertes emphasized that these marks were “fairly recent” but not caused by the gunshots.

The autopsy also found blood on Reed’s right thumb and under the nails of his right middle finger. The blood was not collected and tested.

Though Reed is suspected to have been murdered on Sept. 21, 2012, Jackson said the body was still “fresh” when he first saw it three days later.

“(Reed) was still rigid,” Jackson said. “He still had stiffness in his upper limbs.”

Jackson indicated that this condition was in line with the natural decomposition process, which is often slowed down by colder temperatures and other environmental factors. Vertes further reinforced this assertion by describing Reed’s .01 percent blood alcohol content as a natural “post-mortem formation of alcohol.”

Reed’s body was found lying face-down in a brush line near his house at 904 Clymer-Sherman Road in Clymer. He was wearing a long-sleeved, pin-striped blue shirt, a tie, a black T-shirt, gray slacks, socks and no shoes. The watch on his left wrist had a broken wristband.

When asked by Foley if the autopsy – which was conducted four days after Reed’s body was found – had findings consistent with the prosecution’s case, Vertes said, “it’s possible.”

Public Defender Nathanial Barone cross-examined both witnesses, mostly getting clarification about the direction and severity of the bullets.

The trial is scheduled to continue today at 9:30 a.m.