Trial continues for accused killer Gary Berchtold Thursday

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LACON, Ill. (WMBD) — A trial continues in a Marshall County Courtroom for an accused killer Thursday.

Gary Berchtold is on trial, accused of murdering, dismembering, and burning the body of Tiffini Murphy in 2019.

Thursday, the main focus for prosecutors was the bone fragments found in an ash pile that Prosecutors allege Berchtold dropped Murphy’s remains.

Prosecutors called an Illinois Department of Natural Resource employee named Dawn Cobb to the stand. Cobb is an expert in studying human skeletons. Cobb helped analyze the bone fragments that were found in 2019.

Cobb said she was able to determine that many of the bones were from humans, but she was unable to determine the gender or exact age of the person the bones came from, except for part of a jaw bone that was “possibly” from a female and the person was an adult over the age of 20.

The defense asked the judge not to accept the bone fragments as evidence due to unanswered questions of their origin.

“She cannot connect these to someone who is Caucasian, female or someone of the age of Tiffini Murphy,” said Roger Bolin, defense attorney. 

Bolin also questioned if the bones could be from 1700 or 1800. In response, Cobb said that bones from those years would not have mixed with modern household debris.

Dr. Amanda Youmans, that performed an autopsy and analyzed the bones in August of 2019 also testified. The doctor says her examination led her to rule the cause of death as “undetermined by violent means” due to some of the bones being ash-like.

Youmans also said during her examination that she received a six-inch piece of hair that was “blonde or light brown” that appeared to be cut.

Also, in the courtroom on Thursday, prosecutors played a video of an interview between Deputy Jason Spradling and Berchtold where he changed his story about what happened on the night of Murphy’s death.

Berchtold said that a gun went off during a fight between Krystofer Williams and Murphy, leading to her death. During one portion of the video, a family member of Murphy’s exited the courtroom in frustration.

The last witness called to the stand on Thursday was Dustin Johnson, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police at a crime lab in Morton.

His testimony focused on shell casings found in the ash pile and he later demonstrated how a PA-63 handgun operates.

Berchtold’s trial is expected to resume Friday at 9:00 a.m. The prosecution says they have no more witnesses.

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