TAMPA — Day two of David Lee Onstott's murder trial featured gruesome details about the violent death of 13-year-old Sarah Lunde.
Jurors saw photos of the dead girl facedown in a fish pond, as well as diagrams of her fractured skull. They were shown the concrete patio blocks that had been used to weigh down her body under the water. They were told in chilling clinical detail how bloated and decomposed her body had become.
It was so graphic that Sarah's mother, Kelly May, left the courtroom.
Thursday's testimony was vital, going to the core of the circumstantial evidence underpinning the case against Onstott.
Prosecutors say Onstott, a 40-year-old sex offender who had dated Kelly May, went to her Ruskin home in April 2005 looking for her. But instead he found her 13-year-old daughter home alone, waiting for her older brother to bring back food from Taco Bell. A jail guard is expected to testify today that Onstott told him he strangled Sarah with a choke hold.
But Onstott's public defenders say it's more likely that Sarah left her home, got something to eat, and was killed by someone other than Onstott.
Christina Roberts, a former Hillsborough medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Sarah, testified Thursday that the girl died of crushing blows to the head. But Roberts said it was impossible to tell whether she had been raped or strangled because her body was too decomposed. She also detailed the contents of Sarah's stomach but said she couldn't tell for sure when she had last eaten.
Thursday's other key witness was Darryl Daoust, a friend of Sarah's older brother Andrew Lunde at the time Sarah was killed. Daoust, who was 15 years old then and is 18 now, testified he twice had sex with Sarah.
Under questioning from Assistant Public Defender John Skye, Daoust acknowledged that he didn't admit to detectives he had sex with the 13-year-old girl until they confronted him with DNA evidence from Sarah's bed a year after her death.
Skye was casting doubt on Daoust's credibility because the teen also described an incident that prosecutors say implicates Onstott in Sarah's death.
Daoust said that on the night Sarah disappeared, he and Andrew Lunde drove to Taco Bell to get her food, but when they got back to the Lunde home Sarah was gone, the front door was wide open, and an empty beer bottle had been left on a table by the door. Hours later, the two boys were awakened when Onstott showed up in the middle of the night, grabbed the beer bottle and left.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3435.