No bleach found at scene Breasia’s remains found; DNA only in femur

Clorox a big topic throughout trial because Dinkins traveled to buy 2 bottles
Analysts testified Friday no bleach or DNA was found on the evidence from the site where Breasia Terrell's remains were found. DNA was only found in her femur.
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 12:45 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Analysts from the DCI crime lab said no bleach was detected on any evidence from the crime scene, even the item presumed to be a bleach bottle, and the lone DNA result was from Breasia Terrell’s femur.

The only witnesses on Friday were two criminalists from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, testifying for a little more than an hour.

Watch Live each day here with KWQC.

Testimony continued Friday in the bench trial for Henry Dinkins, charged in the 2020 death of 10-year-old Breasia, who is the half sister of his son. Dinkins, 51, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in Scott County District Court. If convicted, he faces a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Branden Stepanski, a trace evidence analyst, examined the shirt, shorts and bra found on Breasia near the Kunau pond. He looked for oxidized sections where bleach would most likely be found.

He found small traces of chlorine but cannot say it was bleach or not. Generally, he said, it is difficult to identify bleach.

Also the longer an item is out in the elements the more difficult to find evidence of certain compounds.

The shorts and bra were not tested because they also were in the weather for a long time, and it was determined that any results wouldn’t be strong enough to obtain data.

Schmitt said test results from the plastic bottle were not strong enough to say it once contained bleach.

Defense attorney Joel Waters asked Stepanski to confirm that bleach was not found on any item.

Stepanski said “Overall, yes.”

DNA analyst Michael Schmitt testified that tests of the clothing found at the Kunau pond was negative. The only DNA found was from the bone. Adolescent Doe’s DNA then was compared to Aishia Lankford, and it was a 99.9% match to be related.

He had been unable to take a sample from the tissue on the left leg. When a body is exposed to extreme weather conditions, he said, a body decomposes faster and DNA cells degrade.

Scott County Attorney Kelly Cunningham asked how bleach affects DNA.

As an example, Schmitt said when DCI criminalists clean their work stations, they use a 10% bleach solution between tests to remove any DNA to avoid contaminating evidence.

He said the chance of developing a DNA profile on the clothing was low consider the time outdoors. He did look for for evidence of sexual abuse but was unable to find any sperm.

Schmitt also was unable to develop a DNA profile from fingernails submitted by the medical examiner.

He was asked to perform tests on clothing found at a homicide in Clinton. He said blood found on the child’s shirt did not match Breasia or Dinkins.

The prosecution said their final witness’ testimony, Davenport Police Detective Hammes, will take a significant amount of time, and would like to wait to put her on the stand.

Lead investigator Evan Obert testified for two a half days.

Judge Henry Latham said the trial will reconvene on Monday at 9:30 a.m. and wished everyone a good weekend.

The trial so far

The bench trial began Thursday, Aug. 10, with the opening statement from the prosecution. Three people had testimony Thursday including, Davenport Police Special Victims Unit Sgt. Geoffrey Peiffer, Davenport police Sgt. Chris Mayer, and Mona Varela who took the first report of Breasia’s disappearance.

On Friday, Aug. 11, began with continuation of Sgt. Geoffrey Peiffer’s testimony. He said evidence shows she didn’t run away. Testimony ended with Breasia Terrell’s brother, DL, who said he woke up in the middle of the night and his sister was nowhere to be found.

On Monday, Aug. 14, Breasia’s younger brother, DL, Breasia’s mother, Lankford, and Dinkins’ then-girlfriend, Andrea Culberson testified. In a contentious back and forth with the defense attorney, DL said he was there when she was shot and said his father, Dinkins, did it. While questioning the 11-year-old boy, defense attorney Chad Frese said DL was saying some things for the first time, including being there when Breasia was shot and seeing Dinkins wiping off a bloody knife. On redirect with the prosecution, DL seemed to double-down on the claims saying he was afraid to speak of it before.

On Tuesday, Aug. 15, Donita Gardner testified that she told granddaughter Breasia that she could not go with her brother to Dinkins’ apartment because it was not part of the plan made by her mother. Also testifying was Amanda Kenney, an RN at Genesis East in Davenport, who described police officers escorting Dinkins to the hospital where she performed the swabs to get his DNA in the system. Next, cadaver dog trainer and handler Jim Peters said he was called out to Credit Island by police on July 11, one day after Breasia was reported missing. FBI Special Agent Eli McBride testified about his duties were to lead the evidence response team.

Giving testimony on Wednesday, Aug. 16, were FBI Special agent Cameron Smith, who was the case agent; Officer Burkle, who responded to the report of a missing child and whose body-cam footage was shown; now-retired officer Jason Pojar who located the Impala that was taken into evidence; Officer Elizabeth Tharp who was with the crime scene tech who photographed the Impala when it was brought to the police garage and smelled bleach when the trunk was opened; Detective Joshua Stocking who gathered footage and documents from the Walmart in Clinton; Detective AJ Poirier, who talked to managers at Clinton Walmart and a Davenport Kwik Shop; then-crime scene technician Christine (Stobaugh) Baker who photographed the Jersey Meadows apartment where Breasia was last seen.

Testifying on Thursday, Aug. 17, were Matt Gehant, then-security manager at Walmart in Clinton, Iowa; Monique Brillhart, an FBI latent fingerprint examiner; Linda Otterstatter, an FBI hair/fiber trace evidence analyst; Tiffany Smith, an FBI forensic examiner in the DNA unit; and Patrick Sievert, a detective with Davenport Police.

On Friday, Aug. 18, the interview with Henry Dinkins at noon on July 10, 2020, at the Davenport Police station is shown. Detective Evan Obert, who questioned Dinkins was the sole witness on the stand Friday. In his testimony Obert talked about that interview and also camera footage and cellphone records that show Dinkins’ movements on the morning of July 10.

On Monday, Detective Obert shows a timeline he has created based on testimony, cell records and surveillance footage. It is a second full day of testimony. Also footage is shown of detective talking to Breasia’s mother, Aishia Lankford, at about 9:30 p.m. July 10. They ask if she recognizes a shoe found at Credit Island. After saying she does not, she collapses onto the curb and cries.

Testifying on Tuesday were Obert; Heather Garvin, a state forensic anthropologist who examined the skeleton; Jodi Webb, a geologist forensics examiner with the FBI at Quantico who reviewed testing on soil samples; Matt Dean and David Baker, inmates who shared a pod at Clinton County Jail with Henry Dinkins; fishermen that discovered the remains on March 22, 2021, Brendan Rogge, Jesse Dau and Eric Johnson; and Davenport Police Sgt. Geoffrey Peiffer who had testified at the beginning of the trial.

Testifying on Wednesday were Peiffer, who helped interview Breasia’s brother, DL, and also was a liaison with the FBI and ATF and helped process the scene where remains were found; Kelly Kruse, a pathologist and associate state medical examiner, who performed the autopsy on the remains March 24, 2021, and determined the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was homicide; Clinton County Deputy Adam Wojciechowski, who responded to the call of a a body found near the pond at Kunau Implement.

Also testifying Wednesday was Michael Tate, a criminalist with the gun unit of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said he could neither identify nor exclude the Lasserre Comanche revolver found in the pond at Kunau Implement in DeWitt as the gun that killed Breasia; Joseph Adams, a friend of Jerod Brink who reported towing a man out of a ditch near Kunau Implement; Davenport Detective Sean Johnson who interviewed Brink; retired officer Bill Thomas who read the deposition of Brink with attorneys for the state and the defense because Brink died several months ago from a heart attack.

Testifying on Thursday were Davenport Police Detective Sean Johnson, who interviewed Jerod Brink, who said he towed a man’s car from a ditch near Kunau; FBI agent James McMillan, who took over as case agent after the remains were found and took soil samples near Kunau; FBI mineral analyst Ian Saginor, who tested those samples against the dirt found beneath the Impala; lead investigator Obert, who returned to the stand briefly to discuss a piece of evidence — cell data that shows where Brink was at 4:30 a.m. July 10; DCI criminalist Jennifer Pullen, who recorded the crime scene in videos and photos; Mark Poulus, a co-founder leader of the Big River Dive Team that searched for the revolver; Steve Ebel, the recovery dive team line-tender; Ben Wilson, the primary diver who located the revolver in the pond.

The trial is expected to last five weeks.