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Doctor: Beating triggered death

Oct. 16, 2013 @ 11:52 PM

HUNTINGTON — A Huntington surgeon testified Wednesday that Otis Clay Jr. died of multiple traumas nearly a month after witnesses say he was beaten with a baseball bat at his house in the 900 block of Washington Avenue.

Dr. David Denning's testimony deflected suggestions from an attorney for Edward "Jesse" Dreyfuse, accused of murdering Clay, that Clay's death was due to medical complications and not by injuries inflicted by Dreyfuse.

"This patient would have never been in the hospital had something not happened to him," Denning testified at Dreyfuse's trial.

Prosecution witnesses allege Dreyfuse, 47, forced his way into Clay's residence on April 9, 2012, picked up a bat that Clay kept at the door for personal safety and used it to repeatedly strike the victim.

Witnesses testified Tuesday the attack stemmed from anger that overwhelmed Dreyfuse when he learned a woman at Clay's residence sold him wax instead of $30 in actual crack cocaine.

The state could rest its case Thursday morning with testimony from a DNA expert and the state Medical Examiner's Office. The defense is expected to respond with its own medical expert and testimony from Dreyfuse.

Jurors saw 11 pictures depicting Clay's injuries, as introduced Wednesday afternoon by Huntington Police Patrolman Keith McSweeney.

The photographs showed the victim's bloody arm, cuts to his left hand and a dislocated right knee. Bruising, particularly that to Clay's left knee, chest and stomach, carried the straight-line shape of a bat with a wider imprint on one end.

Denning told jurors Clay suffered more than one rib fracture, a concussion and a broken right leg among other injuries. He then slipped into a coma during a second surgery to repair the broken leg at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Doctors brought Clay back to life in the operating room, but additional medication and a breathing machine were required to sustain what life remained. Family members eventually decided to withdraw the additional life support, and Clay died May 1, 2012.

Denning acknowledged the surgical event and Clay's troubled medical history, but he told jurors he remains convinced as to the cause of death.

"That's what I thought on the day dictated, and I think the same way today," he testified under cross-examination.

Defense attorney John Laishley focused much of the cross-examination on Clay's early condition at the hospital and the victim's overall health.

Denning confirmed notes indicate Clay arrived at the hospital with stable vital signs and left the emergency room with a "zero" pain rating. Clay's signature also appeared on a surgical release form, and attorneys for both sides agreed as to its authenticity.

The surgeon, testifying with neither Clay's medical chart nor his personal notes, recalled the victim's dependence upon a pacemaker and told Laishley he would not be surprised with news the patient suffered with various heart issues and other ailments.

Dreyfuse, a two-time convicted felon, faces a life prison sentence for any felony conviction, as prosecutors have promised to use the state's three-strikes recidivism law to push for such a punishment if the jury convicts him of any felony less than first-degree murder.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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