The Essex County Courthouse.
Day three of the trial of Scott E. Denno began with expert testimony from forensic pathologist and medical examiner.
Autopsy results concluded the death of Robert Rennie was caused by severe blunt force trauma that caused extreme internal bleeding.
Denno, 19, along with Paul Taylor, 39; Michael Rivers, 36; all of Keeseville were each charged with gang assault first degree after investigations by the New York State Police and the Essex County District Attorney’s office. Denno is also charged with manslaughter in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon.
Dr. Michael Sikirica of Albany took the stand and said he examined Rennie’s body beginning at the skull down through the exterior of the body before doing an internal exam. He presented photographs to the court of Rennie’s body revealing lacerations and bruising at various points from his face to his legs. The internal evaluation led Sikirica to testify that he attributed Rennie’s cause of death to be two collapsed lungs.
“I could tell he was a heavy smoker but his ribs had busted into his chest cavity and into his lungs,” said Sikirica. “This caused his lungs to collapse, known as subcutaneous emphysema.”
This occurs when air gets into tissues under the skin. This usually occurs in the skin covering the chest wall or neck.
After examination of the chest and abdomen, Sikirica said there was an excess of blood in the chest cavity he determined to be caused by severe injury to internal organs.
“There were 200 ml of bloody fluid in the left chest cavity and 100 ml of bloody fluid in the right chest cavity,” said Sikirica.
Though Sikirica did not give an approximate time of death in his final evaluation he told the court that he believed Rennie succumbed to his injuries and died within 15 minutes.
Later, the court was presented with video from an interrogation of Denno at the Plattsburgh State Police Station on Sept. 11, 2012. During this interview, Denno gave a third version of the events of the night of Aug. 26.
During the interrogation, Denno said he hadn’t met Rennie or knew who he was until the night of his death on Aug. 26, and felt Taylor had wanted to hurt Rennie all along because he wanted to be with Rennie’s former girlfriend, Samantha LaCroix.
“Paul said he hated Robert ‘cause he was trying to get with Sam,” said Denno. “Mike said he didn’t like Robert because Robert had told him he’d burn Mike’s house down with his family inside.”
Denno recounted the moments leading up to the fight on Aug. 26 saying Rivers told Rennie he wanted to fight him one on one after meeting on the street and getting into a verbal altercation. Denno, holding Rennie up on one side, and Rivers, holding Rennie on the other, Carried the victim to a second location in front of Frontier because he was, “really drunk and couldn’t walk.”
Denno recounted that Taylor had come from behind a telephone pole and ran up to Rennie and punched him in the back of the head.
After the fight, all three men went home, Denno said. They believed Rennie was still alive after watching him walk away from the fight.
The next day, Denno said they found out from Facebook that Rennie had been found dead by the bridge and Michael and Angela Rivers, who Denno called mom and dad, told them to say Denno and their son Brandon were playing video games all night and to not say Taylor had come to the house.
Court proceedings resumed at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, May 3.