Cause of death is a mystery, witness tells Whittlesey jury BALTIMORE COUNTY


DENTON -- A forensic pathologist called by the defense in the murder trial of Michael Whittlesey testified yesterday that it was impossible to tell what caused the death of Jamie Griffin, whose body wasn't discovered until 1990 -- eight years after he disappeared.

"If you have bones that have been buried in the ground for eight years, it's impossible [to tell]. It's as simple as that," said Dr. John E. Adams, who once worked in the state medical examiner's office.

As the defense opened its case, Dr. Adams disputed testimony from a state medical examiner who said the Baltimore County teen-ager's bones showed evidence of stab wounds and blows to the head.

Dr. Adams said the "defects" in the bones were probably fractures and he saw no hard proof to conclude they were caused by stabbing.

Asked by Public Defender Jerri Peyton if he could determine when the fractures occurred, Dr. Adams said he could not tell.

In cross-examination by Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Mickey Norman, Dr. Adams said he never examined Jamie's actual remains and formed his opinion after seeing photographs of the bones.

Jamie, a 5-foot, 3-inch red-haired senior at Dulaney High School, disappeared from his Cockeysville home on Feb. 2, 1982, and was listed as missing until 1990, when his remains were discovered buried in a pine woods in Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Whittlesey, now 29, was a high school friend of the victim and is believed to be the last person to have seen Jamie alive.

Baltimore County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, claiming Whittlesey killed his friend in order to steal his money and the family car he had been driving.

In 1984 a jury convicted Whittlesey of robbery and theft, and the Joppatowne resident was sentenced to a 25-year prison term.

He was not charged with capital murder until police recovered Jamie's remains. His murder trial was moved to Caroline County on the Eastern Shore.

In other testimony yesterday, Beverly Kott, Whittlesey's mother, said that at Jamie's request, she wrote a note to Whittlesey's school requesting that her son be allowed to leave classes early on April 2, 1982. She said Jamie and her son had planned to drive to Washington to see a museum exhibition.

Jamie's parents testified earlier in the trial that their son told them he was planning to join a religious youth group that evening for a weekend retreat in Cecil County.

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