Antonio Armstrong Jr. trial: Blood spatter expert walks jury through how she found new DNA evidence after 7 years

HOUSTON – It’s the second week of Antonio Armstrong Jr.’s third capital murder trial.

Last week, 17 witnesses were called on week one of the trial.

KPRC 2 will be live daily inside the courtroom and will document new details along with everything you should know.

Aug. 8 - 5:30 p.m.

Judge Johnson called court to recess for the day. Court will resume Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

Aug. 8 - 5:13 p.m.

The 21st witness was called to the stand, Bao Tran Nguyen, the screening supervisor at the Houston Forensic Science Center.

On Aug. 25, 2016 Nguyen said she processed two pillows that were placed into evidence from the Armstrong case. When testing those pillows, Nguyen said she tested for contact DNA and blood. Both pillows tested positive for blood.

In December 2016, Nguyen said she tested AJ’s shirt, pants and sandals for blood. She said she did not visually see any blood when examining his shirt and did not look under the sticker and check for any blood.

Aug. 8 - 4:15 p.m.

The defense team starts cross-examining Head.

Head said the Houston Police Department’s evidence room is not the ideal place to test evidence, explaining the rigorous protocol that should be followed when handling evidence.

Head said when her lab conducted an analysis of the shirt and pants, no blood was ever detected. To date, no blood has ever been detected on AJ’s clothing.

She testified that the chain of custody when dealing with evidence years later is important when testing for new evidence. Although Head said she did not know where the blood found on the sticker came from, she said, in her opinion and from experience, the blood should have come from a stain on the shirt. To date, no stain has been found on the shirt.

Aug. 8 - 3:24 p.m.

The 20th witness took the stand via Zoom, Courtney Head, manager of biology and DNA at the Houston Forensic Science Center.

Head, who oversees the biology sector of HFSC, said the Armstrong report was very complicated due to the number of people living in the home.

Head said five known samples of DNA were collected from the Armstrong home: Anotnio Sr., Josh, AJ, Dawn and Kayra.

The most significant items tested and the results:

  • Gun - not enough DNA present to get results
  • Clip - no one (Josh, AJ, Antonio Sr., Kayra or Dawn) could be excluded
  • Pillow - Dawn is the main contributor but Josh, AJ, Antonio Sr., Kayra or Dawn could not be excluded
  • West Kitchen Drawers: Josh, AJ, Antonio Sr., Kayra or Dawn could not be excluded
  • Master Bedroom Drawers: Josh, AJ, Antonio Sr., Kayra or Dawn could not be excluded
  • Pen: Josh, AJ, Antonio Sr., Kayra or Dawn could not be excluded
  • Mussel: Josh, AJ, Antonio Sr., Kayra or Dawn could not be excluded

Head said Josh was not a strong contributor to any of the evidence tested from the home.

Next, she went into how she was made aware of the new DNA evidence found on the homicide sticker that was placed on AJ’s shirt. Head said she was notified by Houston Police Department homicide detective Andrew Barr about the DNA finding, which was brought back to her lab for testing.

Two stains from the collar of AJ’s shirt were also tested. The first sample came back as insufficient, meaning not enough DNA was found to reach a result. The second stain from the collar came back as a mixture of two people, AJ and an unknown person.

The two stains found on the sticker were then tested, which came back matching the DNA of Antonio Sr.

The flakes that were found in the box with the bloody pillows were also tested, four of those flakes came back matching the DNA of Antonio Sr. and one flake matched Dawn.

Aug. 8 - 10:00 a.m.

Day 7 of the trial started with Rossi back on stand, explaining how she found the DNA evidence.

Rossi said she initially went to the Houston Police Department’s evidence room to look at the pillows that were taken into evidence. She said when she got to the building, one of the employees gave her a list of evidence from the Armstrong case and instructed her to highlight all evidence she wanted to take a look at.

Rossi said she noticed AJ’s clothing was a part of the evidence and asked to see them, along with the pillows. She said she wanted to see AJ’s clothing because she knew they had not been looked at by a blood analyst expert, although she initially didn’t come to look at them.

When inspecting AJ’s clothing, she said she noticed brownish/reddish stains on his shirt and decided to call the Harris County Forensic Center for a presumptive blood test.

Rossi said she then peeled back the sticker and found two stains. In total, Rossi said she tested three areas on AJ’s shirt and the two blood stains found on the stickers. Both spots on the sticker tested positive for blood, and the part of the collar area that was tested came back as partially positive for blood, according to Rossi.

She said she usually prefers to take evidence back to her lab in Montgomery County to inspect, but in this case, she did not believe she would find anything and did not deem it necessary.

Rossi then explained the two blood stains found on the sticker on AJ’s shirt. She said the first stain, which she described more as a “blood flake,” could’ve possibly fallen from AJ’s face. The second spot, which she described as an elliptical blood splatter, could have come from the mouth or nose.

Rossi said she cannot exclude cross-contamination as a possibility for one of the two samples found on the sticker.

When Rossi was cross-examined by the defense, she said she strongly believes one of the two samples found on the sticker that was attached to AJ’s shirt came from Antonio Sr.

Aug. 8 - 9:55 a.m.

The jury enters the courtroom.

Aug. 8 - 9:24 a.m.

Judge Kelli Johnson enters the courtroom room. Court is called into order.

Get a full recap of each day with the trial blogs:

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