Two killed in 2012 chase and shooting suffered 47 gunshot wounds

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Michael Brelo

CLEVELAND- The trial of a Cleveland police officer charged with manslaughter in the November 2012 deadly chase and shooting continued Thursday morning.

Officer Michael Brelo, 31, faces two counts of voluntary manslaughter for the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The two were shot and killed following a 22-minute chase through the city of Cleveland, ending in gunfire behind Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland.

*WARNING: Photos and descriptions in the live blog below may be considered graphic*

On Thursday, prosecutors called Dr. Harold Schueler, chief toxicologist with the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Lab. Schueler said Russell had a blood-alcohol content of .131 and tested positive for cocaine. Williams also had cocaine in her system, as well as marijuana.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Felo also took the stand. He performed the autopsy on Williams, who sustained 24 gunshots wounds and of those, 13 had a downward trajectory. Russell was also hit with 15 bullets with downward trajectories. He was shot 23 times total.

Prosecutors accuse Brelo of using unnecessary force when he fired 49 shots at the two unarmed suspects. They said Brelo jumped onto the hood of Russell’s Chevrolet Malibu and continued shooting into the car.

Attorneys for Brelo said their client believed he was in a dangerous, crossfire situation and acted in order to protect himself.

On Wednesday, testimony was interrupted when a sheriff’s deputy told the court a man made a threat against Officer Brelo. According to the deputy, Alfredo Williams said if the officer was not convicted, he would kill him himself. Alfredo Williams, brother of Malissa, denied threatening anyone and was barred from the courtroom.

Continuing coverage of the Michael Brelo trial here.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:02 am

Prosecutors call Dr. Harold Schueler, chief toxicologist at the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:04 am

Schueler has been with the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Office for a little more than six months. He has prior experience as a chief toxicologist in other counties and did not perform the tests we are about to discuss.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:07 am

The former chief toxicologist performed the tests on Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. He has since retired.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:11 am

Dr. Schueler says they received cavity blood, which is a term for blood taken from the central cavity the lung and heart region, and femoral blood. They also tested urine and ocular fluid.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:14 am

We are now reviewing Timothy Russell’s toxicology report. He had an ethanol or blood-alcohol level of .131. Dr. Schueler says the eye fluid shows Russell’s BAC was decreasing at the time of his death.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:20 am

Russell tested positive for cocaine. Dr. Schueler says he had a fairly low amount in his system, perhaps from a single use. Russell likely consumed cocaine between two to four hours before his death.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:25 am

Schueler says Russell tested negative for PCP, marijuana, fentanyl, oxycontin, and anti-depressants.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:28 am

Russell tested positive for cocaine by smoking crack, Dr. Schueler concludes based on the results.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:32 am

On the use of cocaine and alcohol at the same time, Dr. Schueler says it enhances the high. They do not cancel each other out as far as a person’s focus.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:35 am

Similar samples were taken from Malissa Williams. She tested positive for cocaine. Schueler says she consumed a higher level dose than Russell.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:38 am

Dr. Schueler says Williams consumed cocaine within an hour of her death and also had other doses recently.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:42 am

Williams also tested positive for marijuana. She tested negative for methamphetamine and prescription medications.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:50 am

A person who weighs 160 pounds would have their blood-alcohol content rise by .02 per serving, 12 oz of beer or a shot.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:55 am

Mixing cocaine and alcohol can lead to increased violent and impulsive behavior, Dr. Schueler says during cross examination. Alcohol can also extend the high of cocaine.

Jen Steer April 16, 20159:58 am

Dr. Wiens testified yesterday that Russell consumed cocaine minutes before his death. Dr. Schueler says that’s possible.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:02 am

Dr. Schueler is done. We’ll now here from the coroner who performed Malissa Williams autopsy.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:03 am

Dr. Joseph Felo has been with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office as a forensic pathologist for more than 17 years.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:09 am

Felo has performed 3,258 autopsies.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:09 am

We’re on a 15 minute break.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:32 am

Dr. Felo was asked to go out to the death scene on Nov. 30, 2012 at Heritage Middle School. All he knew at the time was it was a police-involved shooting and two bodies were in a car. He got there at about 8:30 a.m. that day.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:34 am

Assistant prosecutor Rick Bell hands Dr. Felo photos of the crime scene to review.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:36 am

Dr. Felo checked the victims for a pulse to make sure both were in fact dead. There are photos of the deceased on the screen in the courtroom now, but they are not visible to those in the media room.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:39 am

Dr. Felo says he was asked if they saw guns in the car, so they patted down the bodies. They did not find any firearms. Russell’s Malibu was towed back to the medical examiner’s office for the autopsies.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:49 am

Dr. Felo was not present when Russell’s car was delivered with the bodies inside, but was there when they were removed.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:52 am

Dr. Felo is describing photos of Malissa Williams on the autopsy cart.

Jen Steer April 16, 201510:56 am

X-ray of Malissa Williams upper body.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:03 am

Malissa Williams sustained 24 gunshot wounds, Dr. Felo says.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:09 am

Wound 1 to Williams is to the leftside of her head. Dr. Felo describes it as shallow, but it did penetrate the brain. He says she was not alive when she was shot this time, but it would have killed her had she been alive.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:12 am

Wound 2 struck Williams in the left eye after she was already deceased, Dr. Felo tells assistant prosecutor Rick Bell.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:15 am

Dr. Felo says wound 3 was to the left side of Williams’ neck.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:17 am

Wound 4 is also to Williams’ neck. Dr. Felo says he recovered the bullet near her spine. He calls it a non-lethal wound. Wound 5 is another gunshot wound to her neck. It is non-lethal.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:21 am

Wound 6 was to Williams’ back and did not strike any vital organs, making it non-lethal, according to Dr. Felo. Number 7 is to the left, upper chest area. This gunshot broke a rib and remained in the chest cavity. Eventually, it would lead to death, but there are more serious wounds to Malissa Williams’ body, he says.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:26 am

Assistant prosecutor Rick Bell stands next to a mannequin, representing the body of Malissa Williams. There are several yellow robs sticking out from the mannequins for the trajectory of the gunshots.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:28 am

Dr. Felo says wound 8 enters the right chest of Malissa Williams. It is a lethal wound, which she suffered while alive.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:36 am

Wound 9 is in the left chest region, it goes through the body left to right, front to back and downward. Dr. Felo says it is a lethal wound and anti-mortem.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:42 am

The right arm of the mannequin falls off. Attorney Rick Bell asks if Malissa Williams suffered any wounds to that arm and Dr. Felo says no. Bell tosses the mannequin’s arm aside.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:44 am

Malissa Williams also suffered a broke arm.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:46 am

Wound 10 hits a major vein near the right lung, according to forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Felo. It caused internal bleeding.

Jen Steer April 16, 201511:47 am

We are on a break until 1:25. Check back then for more updates.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:26 pm

We’ll resume with Dr. Joseph Felo of the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office on the stand, reviewing the autopsy report for Malissa Williams.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:29 pm

Williams was alive when she received gunshot wound 10, which was fatal.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:43 pm

Dr. Felo says Williams would have died in one to two minutes from this particular wound itself. That doesn’t take into consideration all the other injuries she sustained.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:48 pm

Wound 11 is to Williams’ left chest. Penetrating gunshot wound through right kidney, Felo says.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:52 pm

Wound number 11 is fatal and happened pre-mortem. Wound 12 hit Williams in the rib cage. It grazed and caused a tear in the heart. It also went through the liver and stomach.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:55 pm

According to Dr. Felo, wound 13 was a penetrating gunshot wound near the belly button. It went through the pancreas and intestines. The bullet was recovered near the spine.

Jen Steer April 16, 20151:57 pm

Prosecutors are showing the autopsy photos on a TV in the courtroom again. Those photos are not visible in the media room. We can occasionally see X-ray images.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:01 pm

Wound 14 is to Malissa Williams pelvis. The bullet did not strike any vital organs, Dr. Joseph Felo says. Wound 16 is to the left upper arm, shattering the upper arm bone.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:08 pm

This is one of the shirts worn by Malissa Williams the night of the shooting on Nov. 29, 2012. The yellow tabs mark bullet holes, which were previously pointed out during testimony from trace evidence specialist Curtiss Jones.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:11 pm

Break until 2:20 p.m.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:35 pm

We’re waiting for Dr. Joseph Felo’s testimony to continue. It’s like he’ll be on the stand through the end of today’s proceedings.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:39 pm

We are now onto the perforating gunshot wounds. Those are bullets that entered, then left the body. There are nine of these wounds, so our numbering will start over. Would 1 is a non-lethal, flesh wound to the scalp. Would 2 is through the left chest.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:41 pm

Would 3 is also through the chest. Would 4 is through the left upper arm. Felo says it shattered the humorous. You can see that in the X-ray images below.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:49 pm

Malissa Williams suffered multiple abrasions to her hands, despite wearing gloves at the time of the shooting.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:52 pm

Dr. Felo says Malissa Williams died of 24 gunshot wounds to her head, neck and trunk. Dr. Andrea Wiens, a pathology fellow at the time, performed the autopsy on Russell. She presented those findings yesterday during testimony. Felo reviewed her work.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:54 pm

According to forensic pathology Dr. Joseph Felo, Williams had 13 downward trajectory wounds and four of those were fatal, while Russell had 15 downward trajectory wounds and five of those were fatal.

Jen Steer April 16, 20152:59 pm

Assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Bell is asking Dr. Felo about the autopsy on Russell. Felo did not perform it, but he did supervise the doctor who did.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:03 pm

Felo says because of the close proximity of wounds to Russell, it was next to impossible to tell which bullet caused what damage.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:17 pm

Felo is still reviewing the autopsy report of Russell, where we went through in detail yesterday during Dr. Wiens’ testimony.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:19 pm

Russell died of 23 gunshot wounds, Felo says.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:30 pm

Assistant prosecuting Rick Bell is showing Dr. Joseph Felo a picture of Timothy Russell deceased in his Malibu. It shows blood on his face and on the seat.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:31 pm

Prosecution is done with Dr. Felo for now. Cross examination will begin in 15 minutes.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:51 pm

A police officer who does under cover work is appearing briefly in court. She is not available tomorrow so she is pleading the fifth today. Her attorney and the judge have asked that she not be shown on camera. The audio has been turned off in the courtroom while this is addressed.

Jen Steer April 16, 20153:59 pm

Defense is cross examining Dr. Felo. There was a discrepancy with wound 9 on Timothy Russell, which they are discussing. I’m a little unclear and it seems we’ll get back to that issue in a bit.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:01 pm

The judge tells the prosecutors this will be the last witness today and instructs them to send home any witnesses waiting outside the courtroom.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:04 pm

Defense asks questions clarifying the mannequins are not created to scale of Williams and Russell. They are both female mannequins. Felo says the size is similar to Williams.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:12 pm

Felo defines anti-mortem, meaning before death; post-mortem, meaning after death; and perimortem, meaning around the time death. Felo says prosecutors asked him to define the wounds as post or anti, and fatal and non-fatal. Defense is insinuating prosecutors didn’t want the forensic pathologist to use the term perimortem. Certain tissue is makes it difficult to tell when an injury occurs. According to Felo, you could shot a living person or a dead people in the arm, and the wound would look similar.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:16 pm

Dr. Felo says Malissa Williams could have consumed cocaine within minutes of her death. Defense continues to review toxicology reports, which were discussed in detail during chief toxicologist Dr. Harold Schueler’s testimony this morning.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:27 pm

Defense attorney is asking how long it would take for each wound on Malissa Williams to become fatal. Wound 2, to her eye, would take days to kill her, Felo says.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:32 pm

Wound 13 is near the belly button. It is not a downward shot.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:37 pm

We’ve moved onto Timothy Russell’s autopsy. Dr. Felo says wound 2, to the top of Russell’s head, would be quickly fatal. Wound 4 is to the mid-line upper chest.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:45 pm

Dr. Felo cannot say with a reasonably degree of scientific certain when wounds 1 and 2, both to Russell’s head, occurred in the sequence. But because of hemorrhaging, he knows they were not the last two shots fired into Russell’s body.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:46 pm

Onto redirect. Dr. Felo says it’s not like Hollywood, bodies don’t flail around when they are shot. But they can move.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:57 pm

A sticking point during questioning is whether a particular gunshot wound to Malissa Williams’ head was pre or post-portem.

Jen Steer April 16, 20154:58 pm

We are finished for today. The trial will resume tomorrow morning.