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Medical examiner, VanderHeyden's sister testify on day two of Burch trial

George Burch at jury selection for his trial on Feb 16, 2018 (WBAY photo)
George Burch at jury selection for his trial on Feb 16, 2018 (WBAY photo)(WBAY)
Published: Feb. 20, 2018 at 8:47 AM CST
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A medical examiner has testified about the dozens of injuries suffered by Brown County murder victim Nicole VanderHeyden prior to her death.

Day two of testimony has wrapped in the George Burch trial. In addition to the medical examiner, the state called VanderHeyden's sister and an officer who investigated the initial missing persons complaint.

Burch is charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in the killing of VanderHeyden, a Ledgeview woman.

VanderHeyden's body was found off Hoffman Road in Bellevue, about three miles from her home, on May 21, 2016. Investigators believe Burch killed VanderHeyden and dumped her body. VanderHeyden was last seen at a bar in downtown Green Bay prior to the discovery of her body the next day.

VanderHeyden and Burch did not know each other.

The first witness of the day was Sgt. Richard Loppnow of the Brown County Sheriff's Office. He took photographs of the crime scene.

Loppnow testified that he and a medical examiner went down an embankment to view the body. Loppnow says it didn't appear that the murder had taken place on Hoffman Road, since there were no drag marks or disturbed vegetation.

Loppnow said a scan of VanderHeyden's finger came up with no results. A forensic dentist was called in to positively identify the body.

Next on the stand was Dane County Medical Examiner Dr. Agnieszka Rogalska. Her office performed the autopsy and determined VanderHeyden's cause of death was strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.

Rogalska testified that VanderHeyden's injuries made her unrecognizable.

Rogalska said VanderHeyden was found with a sock on one foot that had no dirt on the bottom. Rogalska says that shows VanderHeyden didn't walk to the area where her body was found off Hoffman Road.

Rogalska went on to describe VanderHeyden's injuries. The ME said it was clear that VanderHeyden had been strangled.

VanderHeyden also suffered bleeding around the brain and her skull had been fractured. This type of break would take a "significant amount of force," Rogalska said .

The ME testified that Nicole was alive when she was strangled and alive while receiving the blunt force trauma to the head. She knows this because of the blood flow.

VanderHeyden's genitals were bruised and injured, consistent with stomping and kicking, according to the medical examiner. Interior injuries were consistent with penetration by use of an object.

VanderHeyden also had dozens of injuries to her feet and hands. Rogalska said these might be defensive injuries. That would mean VanderHeyden was attempting to fight off her attacker.

The defense cross examined Rogalska about the possibility of Nicole being killed after consensual sex. Rogalska said strangulation and a hit to the head are suggestive of sexual assault, not consensual sex.

Judge John Zakowski asked if there's a way to know if more than one person was responsible for VanderHeyden's injuries. Rogalska said there was no way of knowing.

Another state witness is Dallas Kennedy. She's the babysitter who watched Nicole VanderHeyden's young child on the night of the murder. Nicole and her boyfriend, Douglass Detrie, were going to a concert and a night on the town.

Detrie is the man the defense claims is responsible for VanderHeyden's death.

Kennedy testified that Detrie arrived home at 2:40 a.m. after a night out. Detrie said he had did not know VanderHeyden's whereabouts and she was not answering her phone.

VanderHeyden's phone had died at 12:30 a.m. according to evidence. Her last known location was a bar in downtown Green Bay.

Kennedy testified that Detrie asked her to continue to try calling Nicole. She said she talked with Detrie the next morning and they discussed finding Nicole.

Nicole VanderHeyden's sister, Heather Meyer, was next to take the stand. She struggled to keep her composure while talking about her sister. She described her family as "very close." She told the court her sister was a great mother.

Meyer testified that she received a Facebook message from Detrie asking if she had spoken with Nicole. Meyer attempted to call her sister, but there was no answer.

Meyer went to the home VanderHeyden shared with Detrie. She said Detrie and his parents were there.

Meyer learned a body had been found in Bellevue and prayed it wasn't Nicole. She says she became "hysterical" and called her parents to come to Detrie's home.

The next person called to the stand was Courtney Gerlikoski. She was at the same concert as Detrie and VanderHeyden. She testified that the couple seemed to be having fun and she did not witness any arguments.

Gerlikoski said a group of girls, including Nicole, went to the Sardine Can after the concert. Detrie said he would meet up with them later. She testified that Nicole was "drunk, feeling good, happy."

The next witness was Sgt. Tracy Holschbach. She was asked to follow up on the missing person report for Nicole VanderHeyden. Holschbach said she spoke with Detrie at his home. She was wearing a recording device. The sergeant says she witnessed no visible marks or scratches or injuries on Detrie.

Holschbach says Detrie was cooperative and allowed police to download data from his phone.

Holschbach testified that she was present on May 23 when Detrie was taken into custody. She said he was in a "very emotional state."

Detrie was later freed when investigators determined he was not their suspect.

Officers arrested Burch on Sept. 8 after finding DNA evidence linking Burch to VanderHeyden.

On Day One, the prosecution and defense gave opening statements and the jury heard testimony from people who discovered VanderHeyden's body and the officers who first responded to the scene.

Day One coverage:

Action 2 News is livestreaming the trial here:

WARNING: streaming is not allowed when the jury is not seated. We will also cut out of the stream at the judge's request. We cannot control audio. Video may sporadically freeze or go out. Some images and testimony will be graphic. Viewer discretion is advised. When court wraps for the day, the stream will switch back to our StormCenter 2 24/7 weather channel.

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