Pathologist: Guard Died of Asphyxia by Manual Strangulation
The woman’s brain was also swollen, which Schilke said occurs when a victim has survived for a certain period of time, and indicates a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Multiple factors can cause death in a strangulation. The blockage of the carotid artery, which is indicated by the petechiae, can result in a decrease of the heart rate. However, pressure on the brain from the lack of blood flow or oxygen and a surge of adrenaline can also cause a heart attack.
The hold used by Cardeilhac to strangle Baker has been described as a lateral vascular neck restraint, more commonly known as a sleeper hold.
Baker also had bruising on her chin, cuts in her mouth and a laceration on her leg.
On Tuesday, the jury also viewed video of the attack on Baker. In the video, Cardeilhac is shown luring the woman into his cell, pointing underneath a shelf mounted to the wall. He gets on his knees, as if something is underneath the shelf. In prior hearings, investigators have testified that Cardeilhac told Baker that he had spotted a mouse or a rat.
At first, Baker bends over or sits on a concrete bed area in an attempt to view the object that Cardeilhac is pointing out. She gets on her hands and knees, as Cardeilhac had done, and looks under the shelf. Cardeilhac, who is now standing behind Baker, grabs the woman around the neck as she attempts to get up.
Baker attempts to stand, but loses her balance and she and Cardeilhac go to the floor as Cardeilhac wraps his legs around the woman’s torso. Cardeilhac keeps his hands and his legs tightly wrapped around the woman during the fall and as they are on the ground. Baker struggles for more than a minute, attempting to get up and kicking her legs. Once she does lose consciousness, Cardeilhac continues choking the woman for at least another minute before he gets up and leaves his jail cell.
Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman reviewed a timeline, which showed that the woman had been strangled for 2 minutes, 30 seconds, before Cardeilhac took the woman’s keys and left his cell in an attempt to escape the corrections center.
Jurors were shown other video of Cardeilhac crawling to other cells in the pod and unlocking them. He is shown attempting to get an inmate in an adjoining pod to escape with him. Though the inmate talks with Cardeilhac animatedly at his cell door, he refuses to leave with Cardeilhac and goes back to his bed. Cardeilhac goes to Guy Eagle Elk’s cell, where authorities find him.
During Overman’s testimony, Lancaster also asked him about law enforcement’s use of the strangulation holds. Over the years, Overman said, choke holds are not used because of their danger, although the sleeper hold described had been used for some time. When law enforcement used that hold, he said, they were trained to use their hand to prevent blockage of the airway.
He was also asked about a game that is said to be used by youth, called the choking game. In the game, youth use a sleeper hold to create a “high” caused by an adrenaline rush. Overman said he is aware of reports of the game and deaths associated with it.
Five teens who had been inmates at the time of the attack were called to the stand. All of teens testified that they knew that Cardeilhac and Guy Eagle Elk had been planning to escape the detention center and that they talked openly about those plans.
One of the teens, Joel Kraus, testified that he intended to escape with the Cardeilhac and Eagle Elk and seemed to have the most first-hand knowledge of the plan.
Kraus testified that the primary plan centered around “choking out” a guard, mainly corrections supervisor Mark Botzki. Cardeilhac had asked if he should kill a guard and indicated he would be willing to kill a guard, Kraus said, but he also said that the “choking out” would occur “without the intent to commit murder.” The teens also knew that “something could happen, that it could go too far,” and a guard could be killed, Kraus said.
The teens testified that Cardeilhac and Eagle Elk had talked of other plans to escape the facility, including running away from a horse facility that the detention center operates and jumping off a table in the recreation wall and through a gap in the fence and wall.
In his cross examination of the teens, defense attorney Todd Lancaster asked about Eagle Elk’s influence on Cardeilhac and whether or not the teens felt that he had intimidated or bullied the boy. The teens testified that Cardeilhac would do whatever Eagle Elk asked of the him, including giving him food, but only Kraus testified that he felt Eagle Elk bullied Cardeilhac. The other teens testified that they thought that Cardeilhac tried to impress Eagle Elk and had influence over him. Teens also said that Eagle Elk called Cardeilhac names on occasion, though Aguilar described Eagle Elk and Cardeilhac as having the typical teen relationship where they would “mess around with each other.”
On the night of the attack, Gilbert Makinster and Tyler Aguilar, testified that they witnessed Cardeilhac and Eagle Elk talking between cells. The two teens shared a cell with Eagle Elk on the night of the attack and saw the two talking between the windows. When asked if he knew if Eagle Elk physically threatened Cardeilhac, Makinster said he did know that Eagle Elk did tell Cardeilhac that he “was going to hit him (Cardeilhac) as hard as (expletive) in the morning” during the verbal exchange between rooms.
Defense attorneys also asked teens and other witnesses about Eagle Elk’s size and asked if he was significantly larger than Cardeilhac. Nebraska State Patrol investigator Stacie Lundgren testified that Eagle Elk was near 6 feet tall, compared to Cardeilhac’s 5 feet, 9 inches, and she estimated Eagle Elk to weigh 30 to 40 pounds more than Cardeilhac. Eagle Elk has also been charged in connection with the attack on Baker, awaiting trial on a charge of aiding and abetting first-degree assault, a Class II felony.
Prosecutor Doug Warner, with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and the defense both rested early Tuesday afternoon. The jurors will re-convene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday to hear closing arguments. The defense has waived sequestration of jurors during deliberations.