SOUTH BEND – They claim Tarrance Lee killed his estranged wife, Trina Winston, in August, then dumped her body in a Chicago neighborhood.
The state on Wednesday confirmed the body found in Chicago was Winston.
The prosecutor's office has said they were pretty sure the body a meter reader found in that Chicago neighborhood last month was Winston, but they were waiting for medical experts to confirm it.
A forensic dentist testified he was able to find several similarities between X-rays taken of Winston's head about two weeks before she disappeared and post-mortem X-rays of that body found under a pile of tires behind a home in Chicago October 23rd.
Including a distinguishing gap between her two lower teeth and a total of 10 missing teeth in her mouth, it's not clear why Winston had that X-ray taken in early August .
The judge also heard from a medical examiner from Chicago who performed Winston's autopsy.
He said he ruled her death a "homicide by unspecified means." He said the body was so badly decomposed, he couldn't see any signs of trauma.
"The investigation suggests that homicide is likely based on the fact that there's been prior incidents of aggression toward this person. To me, a body found in very suspicious circumstances, two hours from where it should be, all these things point to the manner of death being a homicide."
But he could not say exactly how Winston died.
"Many of these cases are asphyxia by nature. Could be smothering, could be a plastic bag placed over the head, could be a hand placed over the mouth and nose, but since I don't have any soft tissues, I can't rule that," he said.
The judge also heard from a man who identified himself as a longtime friend of Lee's. He said he was with Lee on August 16 when Lee repeatedly said he needed help getting ride of Winston's body.
"(Lee) said he picked Trina up from some other guy's house and that she was doing something she shouldn't have been doing. He said he killed her. He didn't go into detail about how. We thought he was playing, and he said, 'No, for real,'" the friend testified.
He said he and 3 other men, including Lee, later went to Lee's Hickory Village Apartment in Mishawaka where he saw Winston's body.
"She was laying on some pillows and a comforter," the man testified. "She was covered up, also. (Lee) pulled the covers off of her and said, 'See, I'm not playing.' I looked to see if she was breathing, and she wasn't."
In addition, the judge heard from a woman who said Lee is the father of her now 9-month-old baby.
That woman testified that August 17, the morning after police say Lee, his brother and a friend dumped Trina Winston's body, he came to her apartment looking tired and said he'd "been digging a hole all night."
She also said she had no idea Lee was married until after police arrested him.
All the testimony is being told to the judge.
In a move we don't often see in murder trials, Lee asked for a bench trial. That means no jury, and the judge alone will decide whether Lee is innocent or guilty.
The state is expected to call at least 10 more witnesses after 8 people took the stand on Wednesday.
The case is expected to go to the judge late Thursday or sometime Friday.
This is Lee's second murder trial. He was convicted in the 1980s for a double murder in South Bend.