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Duct tape, shattered skulls, bullet wounds tell story of Hudson slayings

NEW PORT RICHEY — The pathologist counted 21 wounds on Nick Leonard's head. His skull was shattered.

One blow to Margaret Brown's skull caused a fracture so severe, it would have caused death instantly, the doctor testified. Duct tape covered her mouth and chin, zip ties bound her wrists and two garbage bags were taped over her head.

A pathologist told a jury of the injuries during the murder trial this week of Adam Matos, accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, her parents and her new boyfriend in Hudson three years ago.

Dr. Noel Palma, a forensic pathologist with the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office, detailed the way in which each of the four was killed: two by beating, two by gunfire.

The bodies were found Sept. 4, 2014, near a berm on an isolated country road less than a mile from the Brown family's home, the doctor testified. Margaret Brown and Nick Leonard were both beaten severely. Megan and Greg Brown were both shot.

Matos is accused of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the Browns and Leonard. If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

On Monday, a parade of forensic investigators testified about physical evidence. They told of walls and floors stained with blood.

Family and friends of the Browns and Leonard have packed four rows in the courtroom gallery behind the prosecutors and the jury. On the other side, behind Matos, seats have stayed mostly bare.

Away from the jury, prosecutors and defense attorneys held lengthy discussions with Circuit Judge Mary Handsel about photographs of the victims. The defense had argued that some photos, which depict extremely severe and gruesome injuries, would unfairly prejudice the jury against Matos. The state agreed not to show some photos and to censor portions of others.

As testimony from a forensic investigator wrapped up late Tuesday morning, prosecutors cautioned family members against staying into the afternoon. Some left, but several others remained.

One woman wept quietly before leaving as Palma described a gunshot wound through Megan Brown's left eye.

Her father, Gregory Brown, had at least two gunshot wounds, Palma said.

The injuries of Margaret Brown and Nick Leonard were extensive.

In examining Leonard's remains, Palma said he tried to reassemble the skull, but the bones were too fragmented. He also had a gaping injury to his jaw, caused by a sharp object.

"It could be a knife, or it could be something else," Palma said.

Palma said Margaret Brown's body, which was still clad in a shirt bearing the logo for the Wawa convenience store where she worked, showed signs that she had been suffocated. She was also hit in the head at least nine times with a blunt object.

In opening statements, a prosecutor said the wounds Margaret Brown and Nick Leonard suffered were consistent with a hammer attack.

Contact Dan Sullivan at Follow @TimesDan.