TORRINGTON — A pathologist testifying in murder trial Thursday outlined that a Guernsey man who died in a stabbing suffered a fatal wound to his heart.
Dr. Peter Schilke, a forensic crime pathologist with Western Pathologist Consultants in Scottsbluff, outlined his findings in the murder trial of Jamie Snyder. Snyder, 28, is charged with first-degree murder in the May 24, 2018, stabbing death of 32-year-old Wade Erschabek, of Guernsey.
Schilke performed the autopsy on Erschabek’s body. Schilke had been contacted by Goshen County Coroner on May 24, 2018, to perform the autopsy following the stabbing, which occurred in Fort Laramie.
Schilke said Erschabek had been stabbed on the left side of the chest and he produced photos of the exam. He showed the jury a photo of the heart where a cut to the left ventricle was shown, which Schilke said was the cause of death.
“The stab wound was in the mid-left chest and went through the left forth-fifth-sixth ribs and cut the pericardium and the left ventricle, also cutting the left lobe of the lung. Erschabek had about a liter of blood in his chest,” he said.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg showed the black knife identified as the murder weapon to Schilke and asked if it was the kind of knife that could have caused that injury. Schilke said it could have. The knife wound was 5 ¼-inches deep and 2 ¼-inches in length. His final conclusion was that the stab wound to the heart resulted in homicide.
In the days prior to the stabbing, friends described Snyder as having been acting erratically and making threats.
Clayton Paules took the stand and said Snyder told him someone had broke into his house and stolen items. Snyder allegedly suspected Erschabek or another man. The other man had been in the hospital at the time of the reported burglary, according to his testimony.
Later, Clayton Paules said, Snyder showed up at his home, unannounced, walking and wearing a holster with a knife in it. Clayton Paules described Snyder as “in a very distressed mood” and “pretty worked up” about the burglary. Defense attorney Jonathan Foreman asked if Snyder was “kind of acting wild,” a characterization that Clayton Paules agreed with. He said he had friends over and they were kind of freaked out by him and scared. He said they all left.
Michael Paules, who testified that he had tried to be a father figure to Snyder, also described Snyder as being upset before the stabbing. According to Michael Paules, Snyder told him Erschabek “needed to die.”
“He looked really different, like he was really holding a grudge,” Michael Paules said. “He didn’t seem outraged or nothing like that. He had no guns or knives when I was with him. He was just holding a grudge. And, this was before any talk of the burglary.”
When Michael Paules heard about the burglary and saw Snyder, he said the man had changed, wearing all back and “acting all ‘Goth.’”
Michael Paules said he tried to redirect the man, telling him, “Why don’t you think of your daughter or something else instead of killing someone?” He said he did not take Snyder’s threats seriously.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, defense attorney Jonathan Foreman, asked Eighth Judicial District Judge Patrick Korell for a summary judgment, asking the judge to dismiss the case or reduce charges to second-degree murder or manslaughter in the case against Snyder. Foreman argued that the state had not proven its case for first-degree murder.
After a break, Korell denied the motion, saying that the state had met the requirements for considering first-degree murder in this case. The trial then moved into the defense phase, with Snyder’s attorney calling Dr. Katherine Mahaffey, a physician at the Wyoming State Mental Hospital in Evanston, to the stand.
Mahaffey testified about Snyder’s mental health, saying he had Snyder with a personality disorder, antisocial behavior disorder. She had met with him twice previously before he spent 3 1/2 months in the hospital, from November 2019 to January 2020.
According to questioning from Foreman, another doctor had previously treated Snyder for mental health issues diagnosing him with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012 and treating him at Regional West Medical Center. Mahaffey testified about Snyder’s mental health history, saying the man had also been diagnosed with borderline psychotic with narcissistic social disorder, but the man also showed drug induced symptoms from ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana use. Foreman asked about Snyder experiencing symptoms of grandiose thinking, impulsivity and paranoia, with interpersonal conflict, which Mahaffey agreed with and noted as being under the same umbrella of mental illness. The man had also been experiencing a lot of stress, having lost a job and moving back to Fort Laramie to live with his mother.
According to the testimony, on the night of Snyder’s arrest, he had told his mother he saw tri-colored people with guns. Snyder had trouble keeping on a subject when talking or questioned, changing the subject.
Prior to his arrest, Sndyer told Mahaffey that he had been taking pre-workout drinks, full of caffeine; dhea, a hormone supplement; anabolic steroids and Vitamin B. He described himself as not sleeping well and having lost lots of weight, she testified.
Testimony in the case will resume on Thursday in Goshen County District Court.