The capital murder trial of Derral Wayne Hodgkins continued in Pasco County on Friday. Prosecutors presented DNA evidence to the jury that they argue proves Hodgkins killed Teresa Lodge in her Land O’Lakes apartment in September 2006.
Hodgkins wasn’t charged in the case until a year later, when prosecutors obtained the DNA evidence in scrapings from under Lodge’s fingernails.
DNA analyst Lisa Thomas testified Friday that the DNA under Lodge’s fingernails definitely belonged to Hodgkins.
On cross-examination, however, Hodgkins’ defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand asked Thomas about a scientific article titled “Prevalence of Mixed DNA Profiles on Fingernail Swabs,” which says that DNA can be transferred between people through casual contact and that it can remain under fingernails for as long as 48 hours.
Brunvand cross-examined Thomas, the State’s expert witness, about a scientific article. The defense argues the DNA proves only that Hodgkins and Lodge were together in the days before she died. Hodgkins has acknowledged seeing Lodge about three days before her body was discovered.
Prosecutors have emphasized that Lodge was meticulous about cleanliness and was seen washing her hands, scrubbing pots and mopping floors at work in the days before she died. In the study cited in the article, even people who washed their hands multiple times still had DNA under their nails, Thomas confirmed.
“A high level of DNA remained, right?” Brunvand asked Thomas.
“Correct,” she said.
Closing arguments are set for Monday. If convicted of first-degree murder, Hodgkins could potentially sentenced to death.
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