Originally created 09/23/96

Fibers may be key evidence

Grotesque photographs of Mary Colley Stewart's remains flashed on a projector screen Sunday, but the most potentially damaging evidence against Robert Eugene Fielding concerned tiny fibers.

Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet relented and allowed the Richmond County Superior Court jury to see the photographs because the medical examiner said he needed to show them in the murder trial to explain how Mrs. Stewart might have died.

"I have reservations, for obvious reasons," Judge Overstreet told the jury Sunday afternoon. He had earlier refused two attempts by prosecutors to introduce the photographs while other witnesses testified about the 27-day search of the county landfill for Mrs. Stewart's remains.

Mrs. Stewart, 37, disappeared the night of May 12, 1994, while she was working late at the Department of Family and Children Services on Fenwick Street. Mr. Fielding was working in the building that night as a janitorial crew supervisor. He has pleaded innocent to charges of capital murder and robbery.

Medical Examiner and forensic pathologist Anthony Clark testified Sunday that he couldn't be sure what caused Mrs. Stewart's death because of the advance stage of decomposition of her body and the lack of some sections. It's possible that several bruises on the remains could have been suffered while Mrs. Stewart was still alive and she might have been strangled, Dr. Clark testified.

Although the cause of death couldn't be determined with certainty, the remains were identified as Mrs. Stewart through hair analysis and DNA testing, experts testified Sunday.

The testimony Sunday that may most strongly tie Mr. Fielding to Mrs. Stewart's death, however, was about tiny fibers that came from the dress co-workers testified Mrs. Stewart wore May 12, and a minute drop of blood.

Those items were found in a DFCS trash cart that only Mr. Fielding as the janitorial crew supervisor used the night Mrs. Stewart disappeared.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime laboratory scientist Larry Peterson testified Sunday he found 30 rayon fibers in the trash cart. Those fibers matched the fibers of a piece of black and white dress found at the county landfill along with Mrs. Stewart's remains.

Also Sunday, GBI crime laboratory scientist Connie C. Pickens testified a spot of blood found in the trash cart matched Mrs. Stewart's DNA factors and those of 1 in 9,000 white people and 1 in 6,000 black people.

Prosecutors contend Mr. Fielding killed Mrs. Stewart inside the office building and used the trash cart to take her body to a Dumpster just outside the building.

The Dumpster was emptied the next day by a sanitation truck and the contents of the truck, some 7.8 tons, were dumped at the county landfill along with a total of 900 to 1,200 tons of garbage on May 13, witnesses testified.

Testimony continues today at 9 a.m. The prosecution is expected to conclude its case today.


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