Defense: Bernstein's death could have been accidental - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Defense: Bernstein's death could have been accidental

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 by Krystal Paco

Guam - It's the defense's turn to present their case in chief in the Allan Agababa trial, the man accused of murdering his mother back in August 2013 to collect her death benefits.

An off-island medical expert questions the thoroughness of the autopsy conducted on 55-year-old Shelly Bernstein here on Guam.

"Based on what I see, I would feel undetermined with the manner of death. With admitting I couldn't tell the difference between a homicide and an accident. Based on what I've seen," concluded California based forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Cohen who conducted an independent review as part of the ongoing murder trial.

Via Skype today, the expert witness who testified on behalf of defense stated there were two causes for Bernstein's death: acute combined prescription drug intoxication and blunt impact to the head with scalp injury and hemorrhage.

According to Cohen, the autopsy conducted by Guam's chief medical examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola was incomplete noting there were no x-rays or blood tests, only the lesser preferred urine tests. As we've been reporting, the island's CME ruled Bernstein's death a result of a single blow to the head. Although prosecution alleges her son, Agababa, was her assailant, Cohen says he doesn't believe the victim's injury is consistent with that of one of pre-meditated murder. He also states that the blunt force trauma Bernstein sustained was survivable seeing as there was no evidence of injuries to her brain.

"I find it peculiar that a single impact to the head is connected to this type of homicide scenario," he said.

But what could've caused the single blow to the victim's head? Cohen doesn't rule out an accidental fall stating she may have hit the corner of wooden furniture or something in the bathroom. Because Bernstein was also prescribed steroids, Cohen says such drugs when used over a long period of time may soften bones. This means whether Bernstein was attacked or had an accidental fall, it likely didn't take much force to create the damage to her skull.
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