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Testimony in Pasco County murder case points to homicide

Crime scene technician Amy Kubin holds boxer shorts Andrea White was wearing when found.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Crime scene technician Amy Kubin holds boxer shorts Andrea White was wearing when found.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The state has no scientific evidence that Andrea White died in July 2005 by someone else's hand.

But there is scientific evidence that the 33-year-old mother of four did not die a natural death, and that she did not die where her body was found.

That's why two medical examiners testified Thursday that, in their scientific opinion, she was killed.

"This is a woman who has some medical issues, but she's not found dead in her house or her car," said Dr. Jon Thogmartin, the Pinellas-Pasco chief medical examiner. "She's found dead floating in a pond, far from home, without her shoes. That itself is very unusual.

"This is a typical situation where you find someone transporting (a body) to another location and they are found dead there."

In this case, prosecutors believe that someone is Andrea White's husband, David Andrew White. The 40-year-old faces life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

The case against White is circumstantial. There is no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony that links him to his wife's death. Instead, the state believes he acted suspiciously during her disappearance, and prosecutors note he moved to New York the day her body was found. White said his wife stormed out of the house and he never saw her again.

But the two medical examiners Thursday told jurors there is evidence she was killed.

Earlier this week the jury saw a videotape of the crime scene. Andrea White was shown barefoot, lying on her back in water, dressed for bed in plaid boxers and a shirt pulled up over her chest. Her left arm was extended toward the sky, frozen in place. Her right arm was under the water.

Former associate medical examiner Dr. Daniel Schultz testified Thursday that rigor mortis can cause the limbs of the deceased to freeze — but not if the body is in water.

"You're telling us what makes this case is the arm?" asked Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis.

"The autopsy tells me I don't have a natural disease that killed her," Schultz testified. "I don't have a toxicological reason to blame her death on. I don't have a specific trauma I can blame the death on. But I have circumstances that tell me it's not a natural death. She's been moved and repositioned."

"Why?" Halkitis asked.

"Because (she) has rigor mortis that defies gravity," Schultz said, "that means (she's) been moved . . . She's in an unusual position. She's decomposing. Her shirt's been pulled up. She's been placed there. It's a homicide."

The experts testified they believe she was suffocated. They also said medical tests ruled out possible defense theories that she died of a drug overdose or diabetic shock.

Then both sides laid out dueling theories of how Andrea White died:

Halkitis surmised that after an argument, David White smothered her with a pillow (a wet, freshly laundered one was found in their house after Andrea White went missing). Then David White took the kids to a relative's house and came back to dispose of the body.

The defense has insinuated that a friend of Andrea White's is to blame for her death, possibly after the victim died from an insulin shot.

Assistant Public Defender Dean Livermore theorized that this friend — whom the St. Petersburg Times is not identifying because she has not been charged — dumped Andrea White's body in some woods off a cul-de-sac 5 miles from home.

The state rested late Thursday. David White is expected to testify first thing this morning. Then the case goes to the jury.

Testimony in Pasco County murder case points to homicide 04/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2008 11:57am]
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