(Story originally published Sept. 18, 1998)
A dental expert called by the defense in the murder trial of former Akron police Capt. Douglas Prade testified yesterday there is no way Prade could have bitten his ex-wife moments before she was shot and killed Nov. 26.
Because of a severe jaw misalignment and a loose and poorly fitted set of upper dentures, Prade does not have the biting power to leave a mark, Dr. Peter Baum said.
After examining Prade twice at the Summit County Jail, Baum said, it is his opinion that Prade “is incapable of biting anything.”
He also said that if Prade had tried to bite his ex-wife before the killing, the effort would have pushed his upper plate to the rear of his mouth and the bite would have left only lower teeth marks.
Earlier in the trial, jurors saw photos of the bite mark on Dr. Margo Prade’s left arm. Only lower teeth marks are seen in the photos.
Prade, 52, has pleaded innocent to aggravated murder, six counts of wiretapping and one of possession of criminal tools in the death of Margo Prade. Yesterday would have been her 42nd birthday.
She was found shot to death the morning of Nov. 26 inside her van in the parking lot of her medical office on Wooster Avenue.
In other testimony yesterday, Dr. William Cox, a forensic pathologist and former Summit County coroner, said he found numerous errors in photos and notes made during Margo Prade’s autopsy by Summit County Medical Examiner Marvin Platt.
Akron Police Lt. Harold Craig also testified that he received a phone call from Douglas Prade at 8:25 a.m. Nov. 26, about the same time a prosecution witness testified that he saw Prade at Rolling Acres Dodge next to Margo Prade’s medical building.
Jurors also were taken outside the courthouse to look at a Dodge van of the same year and model as the one in which Margo Prade died.
Defense attorney Kerry O’Brien had Douglas Prade stand next to the van so jurors could compare his height to the height of the van.
O’Brien has several times mentioned the van’s height as a factor in the defense’s case.
Videotapes made by security cameras at Rolling Acres Dodge show Margo Prade’s assailant standing next to her van before and after the shooting.
Baum, a North Olmsted specialist in dental reconstruction, demonstrated Prade’s biting power by taking two impressions of his teeth.
Baum had Prade bite into blocks of medium-soft wax and, on both occasions while Prade was biting down, Baum pulled Prade’s upper plate out when he removed the wax block with a tug.
Baum said Prade was able to put teeth marks only 1.5 to 2 millimeters deep in the wax blocks, which were labeled and offered as defense exhibits.
Under questioning by Assistant County Prosecutor Michael Carroll, Baum acknowledged that his test relied on the effort made by the person taking the test.
He also acknowledged that a person under stress and with adrenaline flowing could bite much harder than usual.
Pathologist Cox showed jurors 17 photos taken of Margo Prade’s wounds during the autopsy, many of which Cox said were mislabeled.
The photos were mismarked as entry or exit wounds while, according to Cox, they were the opposite.
Cox also disputed observations made by Platt during the autopsy.
The photos and disputed observations “tell you there was confusion about what had transpired,” Cox said.
Cox also testified that his analysis of the autopsy led him to believe that Margo Prade was shot five times, not six, as Platt concluded.
One bullet entered her body, exited, then re-entered and re-exited, Cox said.
Cox also said he believes the assailant fired the shots with a .38-caliber handgun -- which has never been found -- held in the right hand.
Douglas Prade is left-handed, according to sources.
But Akron police officers are required to qualify on a pistol range firing right-handed and left-handed.
In questioning by prosecutor Carroll, Cox said he found no errors in Platt’s final autopsy report.
Cox also acknowledged that none of his analysis of the autopsy revealed any information about the identity of the killer.
Cox also acknowledged that a blood trail down Margo Prade’s left arm into the space between the driver’s seat and driver’s door of the van indicated that she fell to her left after she was shot.
Her killer then had to pull her body toward the passenger side of the van for her to be found with her upper body sprawled over the front passenger seat, Cox said.
Leaning against the driver’s side door to her left, the body could have been seen by passers-by. Lying across the front seats of the van, the body was less likely to be seen.
The trial resumes this morning in Summit Common Pleas Judge Mary Spicer’s courtroom. Douglas Prade is expected to testify today.
As interest in the trial has grown, the atmosphere among spectators has taken on an increasingly carnival-like turn, with several spectators munching on snacks during testimony.
Food and beverages are not allowed in the courtroom.