Judge dismisses Raynella Leath murder trial

Published: May. 3, 2017 at 4:23 PM EDT
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The judge in the Raynella Leath retrial threw out the case on May 10.

Leath is the so-called

accused of killing her second husband, David Leath, back in March 2003.


Judge Summers said he studied every piece of evidence and told the court there is not enough evidence. He also said the state couldn't pick a time of death more specific than 8:20 to 11:23, and that Leath had accounted for her time that morning.

"Her clothing tested negative for blood, and the gunshot residue was not on her," Judge Summers said.

Summers excused the jury Wednesday. Leath cried after the judge read his ruling; then, she walked out of the courtroom, holding her daughter's hand.

The judge said, "Raynella is acquitted therefore she is not guilty."

Neither Raynella's attorneys nor the state wanted to talk about the verdict.

Raynella Leath talking to the media now http://www.local8now.com/content/news/Inside-the-courtroom-Raynella-Leath-cries-watching-video-of-crime-scene-421205693.html

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Local 8 News Anchor Lauren Davis and Brittany Tarwater were in the courtroom for the proceedings.


On the seventh day of the trial, the defense recreated the scene of David Leath's shooting by bringing the entire bedroom set into the courtroom, including the bed, lamps and side tables. Leath's attorney even got into the bed with the gun to demonstrate the way they said David Leath shot himself.

Raynella Leath decided not to take the stand and testify in her defense Tuesday.

Both sides of the case will present their closing arguments tomorrow morning.


Monday was the first day the court heard from family members of Raynella Leath. The defense called her two daughters, David's stepdaughters, who were both very close to him.

Leath's daughters mostly spoke about the relationship they had with David growing up. He had served as their primary father-figure.

The daughters also spoke about the change they saw in him in the last few years of his life. They said he had significant behavior changes.

"Everything was a little more sad," the older daughter Maggie Connaster said. She said he struggled to complete normal tasks during that time.

""He said, 'I can't do that like I used to,' and I just stared at the ground and hugged him and was like, 'I love you, it will be okay,' and then we went on past that, I never brought it up. Not to him, not to mom, not to anybody else," Connaster said.

Maggie's younger sister Katie also testified in front of the court. She told the court about hearing of David's death. She was at school when she heard the news. She recalled telling officials, 'I can cry and drive home at the same time, I've lived through enough,' which could have been alluding to her biological father's death. That would have been the first mention of Ed Dossett during this trial.

The defense also brought in a key witness from out of the state to testify, the state of Maryland's chief medical examiner David Fowler. Fowler said that given the proximity of the shooting, bullet trajectory and stippling, David could have pulled the trigger.

"You could line this weapon up, take it out, and so there are plenty of opportunities well within the reach of the individual to achieve not only this particular shot, but multiple other trajectories through the head without any difficulties," Fowler said.

Fowler did not definitively state that the death was a suicide, but he said it could not be ruled out as a possibility.


The pair of latex gloves found at the scene of David Leath's death caused a lot of trouble in court Friday. The gloves were found and packaged for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to test for DNA and gunshot residue.

Those in the courtroom Friday learned that a third glove was also found in the evidence package. The defense argued that the extra glove could contaminate any findings on the original pair, and that a mistake like this proves the evidence was logged improperly, which could bring doubt against any findings.

Regardless, all three gloves were tested, two showing female DNA. TBI tested that DNA against all female law enforcement officers who were on the scene that day and came up with no matches.

"The DNA profile is consistent with the mixture of genetic material that the major contributor matches number 19-B that, again, was a buckle standard from Raynella Leath," TBI's Charles Hardy said, meaning the DNA


a match for David Leath's widow.

The gloves were also tested for gunshot residue. James Russell Davis, who worked for the TBI at the time of the shooting, said usually, gunshot residue is easy to test on porous surfaces such as skin, a pillowcase or clothing; however, he said if the residue is on something like latex gloves, it wouldn't stick as easily if it were to be washed off.

"Basically, it means I didn't find anything," Davis said to the jury. "I cannot dismiss the possibility that those gloves were used in the vicinity of a weapon, or whether they were used when a weapon was fired or picked up."

The TBI also tested Raynella's and David Leath's hands for gunshot residue the day of the shooting. Raynella's were found to be clean. David's were not, something Davis said was not unlikely, given how close he was to the gun.

Throughout the case, the defense has argued that David Leath shot himself because of his emotional struggle with developing signs of dementia. Friday, the medical examiner took the stand, saying his brain showed no sign of dementia.

The examiner also said David Leath's toxicology report showed medications that he shouldn't have been taking, including antidepressants and muscle relaxers. She claimed the medicines were not what killed Leath, but they could have caused confusion and blurred vision.

"What worries me about this, again, is that, yeah, I'm worried about concentration, but I wouldn't dwell on concentration," Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan said on the stand. "My main question is, why is it there? It's not supposed to be there."

The trial will continue Monday morning.


Key witness Detective Perry Moyers with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department took the stand on Thursday. He was one of the first on the scene the day of David Leath's death. He also took a statement from Raynella while he was there.

Trial began just after 9 a.m. Thursday, and Moyers was on the stand until after 2 p.m.

Moyers explained that when he walked into the bedroom where David Leath was found, his phone was on the bed, there was food on his side table and the gun was on the bed. This is important because the defense claims the death was a suicide. Detective Moyers said the gun had three bullets in it, and three shots were fired.

"We saw a bullet hole, or what appeared to be a bullet hole, in the headboard that went through to the wall, and there was a bullet hole in the bed sheet beside of him, and after closer examination we discovered there was a bullet hole on the left eyebrow with no exit wounds," Moyers said.

Moyers said when he responded to the scene, Leath offered to give him a date book to help with their investigation. The book holds appointments, notes, some extra papers stuck inside, and also near daily accounts of how her husband was behaving. Entries read included, "Dave hateful today," "Dave not feeling well," and "Dave didn't get out of bed today."

There was a lot of controversy over whether or not the date book would be allowed into evidence; in fact, the jurors were asked to leave the room while most of its contents were discussed.

"That could be argued that it's part of the prosecution's case that it was a set up, to show that Dave was having troubles," the judge reasoned while discussing the book. "On the other hand, I can understand the defense's position that we would have to have a lot that Dave was suffering the onset of dementia."

The prosecution also submitted several pictures into evidence to examine the bullet trajectory from the scene.


It was a day packed with witnesses for the state.

On Monday, the defense said David Leath committed suicide because he was depressed due to the fact he was diagnosed with dementia.

The first witness to take the stand Wednesday was David Leath's friend, Gordon Armstrong. He testified that David did not like guns, and that he didn't want anything to do with them. He also said David was very proud of the way he looked and his reputation.

Armstrong is another witness who said he didn't know about David's dementia.

Then, the state brought in attorney Charles Child, who was David Leath's family lawyer. He testified that before David died, David visited him and was unusually emotional. He said David was crying to him, which had never happened before.

Child also said David was concerned Raynella had changed her will without David's knowledge.

Knox County investigator Captain Miles Park testified next. He gave details about blood splatter on the wall behind the body. He presented the measurements he had taken that showed the direction and the size of the blood splatters. He also testified about the body. He said David had stippling on his face from gunpowder. He said the evidence could be important because it showed David's face's distance from the gun when it was fired.

KCSO Detective Aaron Allen testified fourth. He showed the gun, the live bullets, the spent casings and the bullet fragment from David Leath's body. He also showed the video from the crime scene.

The room got very quiet when the video was shown, and Raynella cried while watching it.

The defense worked to prove the body had been moved before the video was filmed. They pointed out there was a pillow between David's legs.

The fifth witness for the state was retired KCSO Investigator Lt. Terry Lee. He described what he saw when he arrived on the scene. He said the body was on the bed with the gun near him.

Wednesday's final witness was KCSO Forensic Investigator Ed Rose. Rose testified that he retrieved the bullet fragment that went through the headboard and into the Sheetrock behind the headboard. The defense had no cross examination for the witness.