Victim’s DNA found on knife recovered from accused murderer Daswan Jette’s sweatshirt

  • New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati (right) holds up a photograph of a knife that Concord police detective points out that he found in Daswan Jette’s apartment after the stabbing death of Sabrina Galusha at the murder trial of Jette on Friday, January 10, 2020 at Merrimack County Superior Court. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Madison Campbell shows how Daswan Jette’s folding knife opened at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Tuesday, January 8, 2020. Campbell was in the front seat of the car when Sabrina Galusha was fatally stabbed at the Penacook Place Apartments in May of 2017. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 1/17/2020 6:27:20 PM

A black-handled folding knife recovered by police detectives in the pocket of a sweatshirt belonging to accused murder Daswan Jette had traces of blood on the blade, a forensic expert testified Friday.

That blood further tested positive for 23-year-old Sabrina Galusha’s DNA at the state lab, where scientists also examined several other pieces of key evidence in connection with her death on May 30, 2017.

On the ninth day of the murder trial in the first- and second-degree murder case against Jette, two criminalists who’ve worked for the state lab for a combined three decades testified about their work on the case, to include fingerprint, blood and DNA analyses.

Criminalist Katie Swango testified before jurors that the blood on the knife was not apparent to the naked eye, but that she was able to retrieve it and other bodily fluids with a cotton swab, which later allowed for a DNA test. She referred to the substances visible on the knife blade as a “grease-like deposit” commonly seen in instances where the blade has penetrated fatty tissues in a person’s body.

“I definitely got DNA and it was from two people,” Swango said. “The major profile was female and the minor I couldn’t tell male or female.”

Swango said she had been provided with a known sample of Galusha’s DNA that matched the more dominant DNA profile. However, she could not draw any further conclusions about the second person.

“Were you able to identify the minor profile?” Assistant Attorney General Nicole Clay asked during direct questioning Friday.

“No, because I didn’t have any other knowns to compare it to,” Swango said.

She explained that investigators had not provided her with a known sample of Jette’s DNA or a known DNA profile of any other person believed to be at Penacook Place Apartments on the night that Galusha was killed.

Prosecutors with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office allege that Jette stabbed Galusha in the heart after attempting to rob her during a drug deal gone bad. Galusha, a Concord native, and three friends had traveled to the apartment complex on the night of May 30, 2017, to sell Jette a half-ounce of marijuana, which witnesses say he tried to steal, prompting an altercation that ended Galusha’s life.

Galusha and two friends had pursued Jette into the vestibule of the apartment building at 36 Pinehurst St. While the defense maintains that Jette acted in self-defense and stabbed Galusha with the knife in the vestibule, prosecutors argue the evidence clearly shows that Jette ran back to the friends’ car as they tried to escape and targeted Galusha there.

Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval, who took the witness stand just before the close of court Friday, conducted the autopsy of Galusha’s body on the morning of May 31, 2017. Prosecutors have said previously that Duval concluded that Galusha was stabbed three times, but that the chest wound was fatal as the knife had penetrated Galusha’s heart.

In addition to the folding knife, Swango spoke about several other items she analyzed at the request of investigators, including a pair of gray sweatpants witnesses said Jette was wearing, cotton swabs containing blood recovered from inside the vestibule and a plastic bag that had contained marijuana.

Both the blood samples from the plastic bag and the cotton swabs tested positive for Galusha’s DNA. However, testing the sweatpants proved far more difficult and produced inconclusive results, Swango said.

“It was a mixture of more than two people,” she said. “We can only form conclusions on single-source profiles or mixtures of two people.”

She explained that the technology does exist to do so but that the state lab isn’t equipped with it at this time.

Swango also analyzed a steak knife that Concord police found just outside the vestibule but said it did not have any trace of blood. The knife was dirty and recovered by investigators after it had started raining.

In building their case, law enforcement also used the state lab for fingerprint analysis. Criminalist Emily Rice said she had fingerprint samples from Jette, Galusha and Galsuha’s three friends – Madison Campbell, Sam Chase and Annika Tidd Civetti; however, she said, she did not have a Campbell’s palm print.

Rice said she was unable to find any fingerprints on the folding knife or the steak knife, but that that’s not unusual given that the knives, particularly the folding one, have textured grips.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered a fingerprint on a textured handled,” Rice said. “It’s not surprising to me.”

Following Galusha’s death, police seized the Chevy Cruze that Civetti had driven on the night of May 30, 2017, to Penacook Place. Two detectives combed the vehicle for possible fingerprints, in addition to other relevant case evidence.

On the trim of the rear door on the driver’s side, one palm impression was positively identified as Jette’s, Rice said. On the interior of that same door, there were several hand or finger impressions from Galusha. Two of Civetti’s fingerprints were also found on the driver’s side, and witnesses said she had been driving the car that night.

Testimony from medical examiner Duval will continue Tuesday morning in Concord.

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