ME rules Jennifer Ramsaran death a homicide, cause of death uncertain

NORWICH — Jennifer Ramsaran’s death was ruled a homicide, testified Onondaga Chief Medical Examiner Robert Stoppacher Tuesday at the Chenango County Courthouse.

Stoppacher testified that he received Jennifer’s body on Feb. 27, 2013, the day after Chenango County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kelly Hayner said her father located what he thought was a dead body on his land in Pharsalia.

Stoppacher recalled the condition of the body and shared it with the jury. Since the victim’s body was found in the winter, he said her body was in a frozen state, and there was a short time before he was able to perform a full autopsy.

Stoppacher testified as both the medical examiner who performed the autopsy and an expert in the field. The reasoning for conducting an autopsy is to declare a cause of death and a manner of death, he said, adding that there are three components to an autopsy.

First is the external examination where injuries are noted, clothing, and where he would look for natural diseases. Second is the internal exam, where surgical procedures are performed to examine the condition of the brain, heart, lungs, liver, and other organs. Finally is the lab component that consists of x-rays, microscopic tests, blood samples, and toxicology tests.

“All three components are how we arrive at a determination,” Stoppacher said.

He said the most striking thing he noticed about the victim in this case was that he could tell she had been deceased for “some period of time.”

Due to decomposition of the body, and what Stoppacher referred to as “animal activity,” he was ultimately unable to determine a cause of death. He described the difference between cause of death and manner of death. A cause of death for a person could be a heart attack, and for that person the manner would be declared natural causes as he said a heart attack results from natural activities of bodies.

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