Victim Died Nearly Instantly, Pathologist Said At Homicide Trial

February 21, 2019 GMT

SCRANTON — Danee Mower died almost instantly after she landed in the Lackawanna River on Feb. 28, 2017, a forensic pathologist testified today in Ryan Taylor’s homicide trial in Lackawanna County Court.

Dr. Gary Ross said the water was just 38 degrees when emergency crews pulled her out of the river. Water that cold can cause the human body to experience “uncontrolled gasping” that fills the lungs with water, leading to near-instant death.

Ross’s testimony appears to be in line with testimony of an eyewitness, who on Wednesday said Mower did not scream or show any sign she was attempting to escape from the water.

Taylor, 26, is on trial for first- and third-degree murder for allegedly pushing Mower, 28, into the river following a confrontation on the riverbank near West Olive Street. Ross, who performed the autopsy, said Mower died from drowning and hypothermia.

Taylor denies he pushed Mower. His attorney, Matthew Comerford, said he expects Taylor will testify in his own defense.

In his cross examination of Ross, Comerford indicated Taylor may claim Mower fell into the water after suffering a seizure brought on by smoking “spice,” a powerful, synthetic marijuana. Medical records show Mower had a history of smoking the drug and twice suffered seizures because of it, he said.

Ross acknowledged he has no direct knowledge of how Mower ended up in the river. His information comes solely from the police investigation. He roundly rejected Comerford’s implication Mower suffered a seizure before the plunge, however.

Toxicology tests showed Mower had no drugs, illegal or legal, in her system at the time of her death, he said. He also noted the purported seizures Mower suffered were described as “pseudo seizures” by medical professionals.

“Pseudo means false,” Ross said.

Prosecutors — Sara Varela and Cathy Tully, both deputy district attorneys, and Bo Loughney, an assistant district attorney — expect to conclude their case Friday with the testimony of several city detectives who contend Taylor confessed. It was not clear whether the defense will present its case Friday or if the trial before Judge Andy Jarbola will stretch into Monday.

Contact the writer:tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter