The murder trial of Chance Loftis continued Tuesday with graphic autopsy photos of the victim, Donald "PeeWee" Rogers, shown to jurors.
Rogers' mother averted her eyes and clutched her husband's hand as photos of her 46-year-old son's bruised and purple face and partially submerged body were projected on a courtroom screen.
Hamilton County Medical Examiner James Metcalfe said during several hours of testimony that Rogers died from blunt-force trauma to his head and neck. Prosecutors say Loftis, 27, and Travis Jenkins, 31, went boating with Rogers in April 2012 and together beat the man to death on the Tennessee River.
Rogers was found the next morning, his head underwater and his knees and lower body still in the boat.
Loftis and Jenkins are charged with second-degree murder and aggravated cruelty to animals. Police say Rogers' Yorkie terrier, Braxton, also was killed.
Metcalfe described his examination in detail. Cuts and bruises were found on Rogers' cheeks, forehead and around his eyes, and the bones around one of his eye sockets had been shattered. When asked how many times Rogers seemed to have been hit, Metcalfe said, "Conservatively, I'd say nine or 10 blows to the head."
Metcalfe said that while a few of those cuts could have come when Rogers' head hit something underwater, the rest of them were consistent with "inflicted blunt-force" trauma. But he said the man could have been alive when he hit the water, then inhaled water and drowned.
"It certainly would be a horrible way to go, if he was still alive when he hit the water," Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe's testimony consumed most of the afternoon's arguments. During the morning defense attorney Mary Sullivan Moore completed her cross-examination of Jennifer Bales, who testified Monday that Loftis confessed to the crime after she had picked him up near the scene.
Moore challenged Bales' assertion that she and Loftis were not in a relationship, citing text messages where she called him "loving and kind" and he called her "beautiful." Moore also asked whether Bales was threatened by detectives seeking information about the case when they brought her in for questioning. Bales said she was not threatened but was scared about the way the case would change her life.
The state rested after Metcalfe's testimony. Moore moved for acquittal based on what she said was the fact that no one could prove where the killing took place, meaning jurisdiction couldn't be proven. Criminal Court Judge Don Poole overruled that motion.
The trial is expected to continue today, when Moore will present her case.
Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.