Murder accused millionaire Jason Rohde’s trial finally resumed on Tuesday after weeks of drama which saw him trim his legal team after being thrown into police cells.
The high-profile trial was postponed in November and has since had two false starts. But on Tuesday the prosecution called forensic crime scene expert and blood spatter analyst Captain Marius Joubert to testify about the crime scene – room number 221‚ the Spier Hotel‚ Stellenbosch – where Rohde’s wife‚ Susan‚ was found dead in the bathroom on July 24‚ 2016.
Joubert examined the room for “blood and blood stain patterns”. He said the couple’s blood was found on the duvet on the bed while Rohde’s blood was also found in the bathroom.
Joubert said Susan had toe injuries on both feet and a laceration on the left eyebrow. He said he could not determine if Rohde’s blood had been splattered onto the duvet cover‚ pillow case and the bathroom floor “before‚ during or after” the incident.
But cross-examined by the businessman’s counsel‚ Graham van der Spuy‚ Joubert said Rohde’s blood could have come from a minute injury that he was not even aware of and there was nothing abnormal about it.
“Would it be fair to say the quantity of blood from the accused was minimal [and] could it have been from shaving? They had been using that room for days‚” Van der Spuy said.
“You have seen his [Rohde’s] narrative‚ and from your conclusion‚ could it have been in keeping with normal day-to-day living?”
Joubert agreed that it could.
The former Lew Geffen/Sotheby’s International Realty chief executive was sharing a room with Susan when she was found dead with the cord of a hair iron around her neck behind the locked bathroom door.
Rohde is charged with murder and obstructing the administration of justice by making her death look like a suicide.
The indictment against Rohde accuses him of placing the cord around Susan’s neck “in a double strand around the clothing/towel hook at the back of the bathroom door”. He then supplied false information to police‚ it says.
“The postmortem examination conducted on the body of the deceased shows the cause of death as consistent with asphyxia following manual strangulation and external airway obstruction‚” says the indictment.
“The features of the ligature imprint abrasion mark are consistent with postmortem application to the neck.”
Last week‚ Rohde told the court that financial constraints had forced him to shed some of his lawyers – Pete Mihalik‚ Ross McKernan and Stacy Webb. Mihalik said Rohde’s financial situation allowed him to retain only Van der Spuy and to pay experts’ costs.
A legal expert estimated that Rohde’s legal bill could be up to R80‚000 a day. Rohde revealed during his bail application that he is worth R30-million.
Rohde was wheeled out of the Crescent Clinic‚ a private hospital in Kenilworth‚ Cape Town‚ to police cells in Stellenbosch after he failed to appear in court. His psychiatrist‚ Dr Kevin Stoloff testified about his condition. Stoloff said Rohde’s “severe‚ major depression episodes” could have been caused by his inability to maintain a strong façade for his children. He was declared fit to stand trial.
The case continues.
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