Red hair found by police in the Spokane apartment where 4-year-old Summer Phelps died was mostly pulled from her head and matched her DNA, a forensic expert testified Thursday in her father’s trial.
Jonathan Lytle is accused of homicide by abuse in the death of his daughter, who was beaten, bitten and shocked with a dog bark collar. She drowned in the family bathtub on March 10, 2007, after being forced to wash urine-soaked clothes for hours.
Summer’s stepmother, Adriana Lytle, has pleaded guilty to homicide by abuse for her role in Summer’s torture and death.
William Schneck, a forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol lab in Cheney, told the Spokane County Superior Court jury that the hair ends which would have been closest to Summer’s scalp “exhibited pulled roots.”
“Pulled hair will have the elongated structures on the scalp end. Naturally shed hair will have a ball on the end with no attached tissue,” Schneck said.
Investigators also determined that there were two animal hairs and one human head hair on the dog bark collar that Jonathan Lytle has admitted using on Summer to keep her from screaming.
A golden retriever lived in the cramped studio apartment with the family, and Jonathan Lytle also has red hair, so investigators had to use a series of forensic techniques to identify the hair discovered in the apartment on North Monroe Street.
Kristi Barr, a DNA expert at the WSP crime lab, said she was asked to test samples of the red hair taken from the Lytles’ kitchen garbage for DNA.
Barr said the hair samples found in the garbage matched Summer’s DNA, obtained at Deaconess Medical Center the night she died.
The trial resumes Monday, when prosecutors will present more DNA evidence and a child abuse expert. Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken will testify Wednesday about how Summer died, and the case could go to the jury by Thursday.