WICHITA, Kansas — Defense lawyers for four people accused in the deaths of a south-central Kansas couple after a November attack will be allowed to send their own expert into a DNA lab to monitor testing in the capital murder case, a Sedgwick County judge ruled this week.
Roger Bluml, 48, and his wife, Melissa Bluml, 53, were shot in the head and found critically wounded outside their home Nov. 15 after an apparent robbery, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1fRdSFc ) reported. Melissa Bluml died the next day, and her husband died about five weeks later.
Among those charged with the killings are the couple's adopted son, Anthony Bluml, 19, and his biological mother, Kisha Schaberg, 35. Two of Anthony Bluml's former classmates at Valley Center High School, Andrew Ellington, 18, and Braden Smith, 19, also are charged in the case.
Each is being held in the Sedgwick County Jail on $2 million bond.
Firearms, cartridge casings and a purse are among the evidence collected in the case. Prosecutors have said DNA swabs taken from those items would be consumed in the testing process, prompting defense attorneys to ask for permission to send an expert into the lab to monitor the process.
Prosecutors objected to the request, arguing that allowing an outsider into the lab would set a bad precedent and violate the protocol of the lab where the tests are being performed.
But defense expert Stephanie Beine of Genetic Technologies Inc. of suburban St. Louis testified over a computer connection that she had been asked to observe DNA testing 50 to 75 times by other scientists.
"Other than logistical problems that may be created, I don't see any other reason why we shouldn't allow it," District Judge Jeff Goering said in his ruling.
Beine said she does not take an active role in the testing, but twice has spoken up when she noticed a tester doing something improper. In one case, she said, a tester stopped to take a phone call, then returned to the testing without changing gloves.
"We're there simply to observe; they're the ones doing the testing," Beine said. But "we would never just sit by and watch a mistake happen," she said.
Testing must be completed before a preliminary hearing in the case set for May 21.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com