A hotel key card for a room registered to Jonathan Yellowhead was found at the Chapples Park scene, as well as his DNA under the fingernails of Braiden Jacob
THUNDER BAY – A hotel key card and DNA evidence found under the fingernails of 17-year-old Braiden Jacob appears to link the man accused in his death to the area where his body was found in Chapples Park.
Day three of the trial against Jonathan Yellowhead on the charge of manslaughter for his alleged role in the death of Jacob included testimony from a DNA expert and forensic identification officer who helped process the Chapples Park scene where Jacob’s body was found on Dec. 9, 2018.
Yellowhead has pleaded not guilty to the charges before the court.
Crown attorney Heather Bracken called Ronald Lai, an expert in forensic science, biology, and DNA analysis at the Centre for Forensic Sciences to testify on Wednesday.
Lai detailed several items that were sent to the CFS for DNA testing, including earbuds found in Chapples Park, a backpack with blood-like staining found in the Limbrick Street area, swabs from blood-like staining at a Limbrick Street residence, and fingernail clippings from Jacob.
According to Lai, DNA from three individuals was found on the earbuds, of which both Jacob and Yellowhead could not be excluded as the source.
Jacob could also not be excluded as the source of DNA from the blood-like staining on the backpack that was seized by police at the Limbrick Street address on Dec. 8, 2018, as well as blood-like staining on the outside of a door frame.
Previous video surveillance footage presented to the court showed Yellowhead returning to a Limbrick Street residence in the early morning hours of Dec. 6 and he informed Nishnawbe Aski Nation Police Service investigators that he stayed there overnight when first questioned about Jacob being missing, adding Jacob left him that night to meet someone else.
Yellowhead could also not be excluded from a DNA profile found from swabs taken from fingernail clippings from Jacob’s left hand.
During cross-examination by defense counsel Neil McCartney, Lai was asked about the possible ways in which DNA from one person can be transferred to another.
“The support for Yellowhead’s DNA being under the finger nails of Jacob does not allow you to opine that he had direct contact with Jacob?” McCartney asked.
“That’s correct,” Lai said. “We can’t necessarily rule out all other scenarios for how DNA got somewhere.”
Det. Const. Jeff Tackney with the forensic identification unit of the Thunder Bay Police Service was also called to testify by the Crown on Wednesday.
Tackney told the court that he was first called to the Limbrick Street residence on Dec. 8 when Jacob was still considered a missing person. Officers in the area informed him that blood-like staining had been observed at the residence and was believed at the time to be one of the areas Jacob attended after he was reported missing.
Several swabs were taken of blood-like staining on the walls, floor, and door frame of the residence, but only two were sent to the CFS for testing. Tackney informed the court that the CFS ultimately decides how many samples are sent for testing from a specific scene.
As Lai’s previous testimony showed, Jacob could not be excluded as a source of DNA found from the swabs of blood-like staining on the door frame at the Limbrick Street residence.
A backpack was also located in the residence at this time and seized by Tackney, with Lai previously testifying that swabs of blood-like straining on the front included a DNA sample from which Jacob could not be excluded.
Tackney then took the court through his attendance at the Chapples Park scene on Dec. 9 after a passerby reported finding a deceased male, later identified as Jacob.
There were several areas where blood-like staining was observed, and swabs were taken, but none were sent to the CFS for DNA testing.
Other items located at the scene included the earbuds and a key card from an Arthur Street hotel. No useable fingerprints were found on the key card but Tackney determined from hotel staff that it was for a room registered to Yellowhead from Dec. 3 to Dec. 7.
Earlier video evidence presented to the court showed Yellowhead and Jacob leaving the Arthur Street hotel, as well as details of a party taking place there that the two attended.
Yellowhead also told NAPS investigators when questioned during the missing person investigation that he and Jacob were at the hotel, but left after a window was broken, and walked to the Limbrick Street area, where he said Jacob then met someone else and left.
The Crown will continue to present its case on Thursday. Yellowhead remains in custody at the Thunder Bay Distirct Jail.