Devastating day of physical evidence presented
Details of body discovery and autopsy results provide drama on day four
By Bill Shope
Scioto Voice Writer
The drama that began on Wednesday’s testimony carried over into day four of the murder trial of Daniel and Jessica Groves, as emotional testimony fiiled the courtroom from almost every single witness.
On this day, the prosecution called a total of five witnesses before resting the state’s case agianst the husband and wife accused of aggravated murder in the death of their two-month old son, Dylan.
On Thursday, the fourth day of the trial, Otway volunteer fireman Steve Gambill was the first to take the stand. Gambill testified about the obstacles the local fire department had to overcome in order to reach the well and pump water out in order to locate the body of baby Dylan after a request from the Scioto County Sheriff’s office. As Gambill described the process of dropping a large hook into the 30 foot deep hole in the middle of a field during a heavy downpour, Daniel Groves stared blankly ahead.
Gambill spoke of the hook making contact with a “heavy object” and by pure chance, catching the 80 lb. container on the hook. Taking a pair of rather large volunteer fireman to pull the container to the surface, Gambill stated they had to pause because the container was at such an angle as to not allow it to be brought through the small opening. While struggling to keep the container near the top, Gambill was able to position the container to come through and completely out to the ground.
“When we got it to the top and onto the ground, we felt like we had done what we were supposed to get done,” Gambill said. “It was kind of a relief that we had found it, but then, when everyone realized what it was, well, we had to walk away,” he said, his voice cracking. After approximately ten minutes of the container draining water out, there was a change in the air-a heavy smell that got to every person there. “It was the smell of rot-of death,” Gambill recalled.
Fellow fireman Dan Shirey, echoed the sentiments and account offered by Gambill, saying, “ After locating the container, we all walked away and tried to regain our composure. We have been on calls where we have to recover deceased people, but nothing like this.”
The container in question was a pair of plastic milk crates bound together by copper wire, zip ties, a heavy chain that encircled the makeshift coffin, all held together by three, heavy-duty padlocks.
It did, indeed, contain the body of Dylan Groves, which was covered up by two heavy blankets and six layers of plastic trash bags.
After repeatedly lying to law enforcement as to the location of his son’s body, Daniel Groves finally pointed to the spring well hidden by overgrown grass and weeds in the middle of a remote field.
After a brief recess, Scioto County Common Pleas Court bailiff Todd Bryant warned those in the gallery that graphic and disturbing pictures would be presented on a large screen during the testimony of Dr. Susan Brown, who performed the autopsy on Dylan in Montgomery County.
Brown’s riveting testimony was presented in a matter of fact manner, with great expertise in her field on full display. The Montgomery County physician answered each question expertly, as both Jessica and Daniel Groves sat sobbing beneath a large screen that displayed the death and autopsy photos that were submitted as evidence.
The pictures were extremely graphic and disturbing and attested to the nature of the infant’s death-a death which Dr. Brown categorized as a “violent homicide”. Dr. Brown first described how the milk crates were sealed and weighted down with a number of heavy rocks. Using the autopsy photos Brown showed the two skull fractures Dylan suffered, as well as fractured ribs, a broken arm and a fracture of his shin bone. The fracture on the right side of the skull, Brown stated was the earliest of the two head traumas and occurred while the 2-month old was still alive, due to the tissue growing between the two edges. The larger skull fracture on the left side probably took place at the moment of death or shortly thereafter due to the lack of tissue. Dr. Brown testified that Dylan’s brain was liquified when she received the body, due to decomposition and noted a pink fluid in the cranial cavity that may have been the result of a brain bleed. The Assistant Montogomery County Coroner also said that the arm and shin fractures were complete fractures. Lacerations to the infant’s left arm and contusions on his chest were also noted.
Dr. Brown also ascertained that a specific cause of death could not be determined due to decomposition and the amount of time the body had been submerged in water, although she did state that it was apparent to her that the injuries occurred while the infant was alive.
Brown also noted the toxicology report showed there were illegal drugs found in Dylan’s liver, over two months past his birth, leading to the possibility that the baby had been exposed to further narcotics during his short time on this earth.
At 11:20 A.M., Scioto County Assistant Prosecutor Julie Cook Hutchinson picked up a large package and carried it up to the witness stand in front of Dr. Brown. The package contained the two milk crates in which Dylan Had been buried, which Brown identified as being such.
Next up for the prosecution was a 27-year veteran of the Scioto County Sheriff’s office, Investigator Jodi Conkel. After being asked to come and interview Daniel Groves who has been taken into custody, Conkel reported the defendant was ”dope sick”, meaning he was in withdrawal.
The prosecution played a video that showed Conkel interviewing Groves, with Groves lying about the location of Dylan’s body while swearing to be truthful. Conkel also recounted her interview with Jessica Groves wherein she recalled that Jessica Groves was very “cold, distant and uncooperative”, and refused to look at a picture of her son that the detective had shown her.
After Conkel had permitted a brief visit between Daniel and Jessica, Daniel was heard on the recording of that visit telling his wife that he lied about where he had placed the body. Jessica Groves stated she was worried about their dogs and proclaimed “We are all we have-till death do us part.”
Afterwards, the video showed Conkel’s intensity as she chastised the defendant for lying to her. She implored Daniel Groves, “Do not leave him laying out like a piece of trash!”
Conkel was later able to use her expertise to get Daniel Groves to show her and other law enforcement where the body was hidden.
Following Conkel, was the minor son of Daniel and Jessica Groves, (name redacted) who testified that he had witnessed swelling and bruising on Dylan’s head. He asked for an explanation and he stated his father had told him that Dylan’s arm had been waving around and had gotten caught in a “dream catcher” which then struck his head.
The younger Groves relayed to the jury that his father has asked him, on multiple occasions to provide a urine sample in a capped bottle.
After the testimony of the youth, the prosecution informed Judge Mark Kuhn that their presentation was finished and “the state rests.”
Day five of the trial will begin with the jury entering the courtroom at 8:30 A.M., when the defense is expected to call their initial witness.