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Autopsy revealed fractured skull and signs of possible strangulation prior to fatal gunshot, medical examiner says

Ben DeStaercke, DNA specialist with the Wisconsin Crime Lab, holds up a shirt that was collected from 1489 142nd St. the morning of April 14, 2018. John R. Russett / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Nick Stahlke with the Wisconsin Crime Lab examines a document during his testimony June 6. John R. Russett / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
While testifying June 6, Dr. Kelly Mills with the Ramsey County Medical Examiners Office looks at some evidence collected during the autopsy she performed on Chase Fleischauer April 15, 2018. John R. Russett / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
During testimony June 6, St. Croix County Sheriff's Investigator Jim Mikla (left) holds the gun recovered from the scene for Wisconsin State Crime Lab DNA Specialist Ben DeStaercke to demonstrate where he swabbed the gun for DNA. John R. Russett / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

Citing signs of strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head, Dr. Kelly Mills of the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office testified that Chase Fleischauer sustained a series of injuries prior to the gunshot wound that ultimately caused his death in the early morning hours of April 14, 2018.

On April 14, 2018, around 4:10 a.m. authorities were called to 1489 142nd St., New Richmond, for a report of a male with a gunshot wound to the head and upon arrival found Chase Alan Fleischauer unresponsive in the kitchen area.

Mills, who said she's conducted more than 5,000 autopsies during her years as a forensic pathologist, described a fractured left temporal bone as well as petechiae — small dots on the skin caused by bleeding capillaries — which is consistent with pressure on the neck, during her examination of 19-year-old Chase Fleischauer on April 15, 2018.

Aside from the skull fracture sustained by Chase Fleischauer prior to being shot, Mills noted a 4 1/4-inch linear abrasion or scrape along the side of his neck, which she said was consistent with fingernails or something of that nature.

Ramsey County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael B. McGee was asked whether he took the pre-gunshot wound injuries into account when signing off on Chase Fleischauer's manner of death, which was listed as homicide.

"They are of a concern in this case, yes," he said.

Ultimately, McGee said, a number of factors led to his office's decision, which included observations of officers on scene as well as autopsy results.

McGee did note the lack of evidence of a contact wound, which he said is commonly associated with suicide. The location the gun was found — which police said was 12-15 feet from Chase Fleischauer's body when discovered — was not consistent with suicide.

"Experience has taught us that with this type of gunshot wound to the head, the gun would probably be lying at his feet or at least around him within reaching distance," McGee said.

While stepping through the autopsy photos, Mills pointed to the area of gunshot stippling on Chase Fleischauer's head, which she said most closely resembled the pattern of the test shot from 6 inches.

The lack of soot present on his head, however, was closest to the 9-inch test shot pattern.

Photos from the Wisconsin State Crime Lab showed the bottom of Chase Fleischauer's socks were stained with blood, which were consistent with partial stains observed on the floor around his body.

"This would indicate that individual stood or walked on blood already on the floor," testified 27-year Wisconsin Crime Lab veteran Nick Stahlke, who led the three-person crime lab team that responded to the Fleischauer residence the morning of April 14, 2018.

According to Mills, Chase Fleischauer would not have been able to move after he sustained the gunshot wound to his head.

Defense attorney Earl Gray argued that alcohol can mask pain and maintained injuries, which may have bled, were caused during a wrestling match between Kayle Fleischauer and his 19-year-old son.

A toxicology report included with Mills' autopsy indicated Chase Fleishcauer's blood alcohol concentration was .278 at the time of his death.

As to the determination of how far the gun was from Chase Fleischauer's head when it was fired, Mills testified that "there was no declarative opinion" and she did not recall saying she thought the gun was 18 inches away when fired.

In November 2018, Gray filed a motion for dismissal based on what the filing called "false and erroneous testimony."

Gray's dismissal filing, which led to a January dismissal hearing, questioned the testimony of St. Croix County Sheriff's Office investigator Jim Mikla, who stated he was told by Dr. Kelly Mills at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office that the gun was fired about 18 inches from Chase Fleischauer's head.

Mikla testified at the January hearing that the report in question — which states Mills mentioned the gun was 18 inches from Chase Fleischauer's head when fired — was prepared with notes he took during his conversation with Mills at the autopsy on April 15, 2018.

The notes were then thrown away, Mikla said at the hearing, which was common practice.

By the end of the day Friday, the state rested its case, setting the course for attorney Earl Gray to begin his defense of the 43-year-old former New Richmond resident as the trial resumed Monday morning.

The trial is scheduled through Wednesday, with the potential for a ninth day on Thursday, if needed.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett

 

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