A former Spokane County Medical Examiner testified in court Thursday that James H. Peterson suffered “extensive” injuries and multiple broken bones in his face when he was beaten to death last year.
The prosecution also rested its case Thursday afternoon in the murder trial for Peterson.
Pierre D. Rhodes, 23, is charged with first-degree murder with robbery in connection with the death of Peterson, 41, on July 4, 2020. His trial began earlier this week.
Another man, Robert J. Tolliver, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery earlier this year in connection with the crime.
Deputies arrested both Tolliver and Rhodes and charged them with murder shortly after the discovery of Peterson’s body. Tolliver’s charges were later reduced and he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery in July.
At the time of his arrest, Tolliver told police he had planned with Rhodes to confront Peterson over some stolen bike parts but backed out. Tolliver insisted he had nothing to do with Peterson’s death.
On Thursday, Jodie Dewey, a forensic scientist at the Washington State Patrol Crime laboratory, testified that she found a palm print matching Rhodes on the handle of the battery-powered angle grinder prosecutors believe was used to bludgeon Peterson.
Now-retired Spokane County Medical Examiner, Dr. John Howard, testified Peterson sustained “extensive injury to his face and scalp.”
Peterson’s eye socket, cheekbone, upper and lower jaw bones were all broken during the assault, Howard said. There were no signs of defensive wounds on Peterson’s body, Howard said.
His cause of death was blunt head injuries and the manner was classified as homicide.
Howard said that the grinder was capable of producing the injuries to Peterson’s head; however, there were no identifying marks to definitively say the grinder caused the injuries.
After Howard’s testimony, Prosecutor Stephen Garvin rested his case.
Public Defender Colin Charbonneau called Rhodes’ community correction officer, Clint Anderson, to the stand. Anderson testified that Rhodes made contact with him on July 7, 2020, as part of his monitoring. Rhodes told Anderson he was staying at a hotel in Spokane Valley, across the street from the police precinct.
Deputies then responded to the hotel, where they arrested Rhodes.
Charbonneau told the court Thursday afternoon that Rhodes had yet to decide if he would testify in his own defense and asked for time to speak with his client. The trial is set to resume Monday morning.
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