NEW BRAUNFELS — Comal County prosecutors had a medical examiner testify Thursday about her findings in the 2010 investigation into a disabled New Braunfels woman’s death.
On the stand in the murder trial against Albert Rodriguez Medellin, Dr. Jennifer Rulon said Antonia Espinoza, 31, suffered many complications while in a coma for several months. She said, however, that Espinoza died from lack of oxygen to her brain due to Medellin assaulting her.
“She had been assaulted several months prior to death,” Rulon testified. “But for that assault, she probably would not have had all these complications and so we ruled it a homicide.”
Rulon, who works in the Bexar County medical examiner’s office, performed the autopsy on Espinoza, who died at University Hospital in San Antonio. Rulon said under direct examination from Jennifer Smith, Comal County assistant district attorney, that she conducted a thorough investigation and examination before coming to a final determination.
“As part of a forensic autopsy, we gather as much information surrounding the cause of death,” Rulon said. “Once I get all my information together, then I look at everything and come up with a cause and manner of death.”
Some of her information comes from outside sources, like police and medical reports, Rulon testified.
Medellin’s defense attorney Tom Clark asked Rulon what information led her to her findings, and whether the police department’s claim that Medellin assaulted Espinoza played any part in Rulon’s ruling. Rulon said under Clark’s cross examination that assault would not be the only possible cause for Espinoza’s coma and lack of oxygen.
The defense attorney asked her if she had not received information from police about a possible assault, would she have been able to rule the manner of Espinoza’s death a homicide.
Medical experts rely on hearsay from others in the case and reports from professionals involved, Rulon said. Without their help, determining how and why someone died would be near impossible, she testified.
“If we only have the autopsy — this person floating in space that comes to our office after death — that is not information to determine cause and manner of death,” Rulon said.
To which Clark simply replied, “No further questions.”
Medellin, 42, faces a possible life sentence. He is on trial for murder; aggravated assault of a date, family or house member with a weapon; and injury to a disabled person.
Authorities accuse Medellin of beating and causing the death of Espinoza, a disabled 31-year-old New Braunfels native and mother of two — including an infant she conceived with Medellin.
Espinoza died Nov. 17, 2010 after five months in a coma. Authorities say Medellin beat her comatose with his bare hands on July 30 of that year.
His trial is scheduled to continue Friday morning.