May 3, 2013

Doctor: Victim died within 15 minutes


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The pathologist who conducted Robert Rennie’s autopsy said it was very likely he died no more than 15 minutes after the beating that inflicted his injuries.

Internal bleeding amounted to about a quarter of the Keeseville man’s total blood volume, Dr. Michael Sikirica told the jury Thursday morning during the third day of Scott E. Denno’s trial in Essex County Court.

Denno, 19, is one of three men accused in the beating death of Rennie last August. He is charged with first-degree manslaughter, gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon. 

Michael D. Rivers faces the same charges. Paul J. Taylor is charged with second-degree homicide, gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

Rennie’s body was found near the closed iron bridge on River Street in Keeseville on the morning of Aug. 26, 2012. The three men were arrested in October.


Essex County Assistant District Attorney Michael Langey began Thursday’s proceedings questioning Sikirica, who conducted the autopsy on the morning of Aug. 27 at Albany Medical Center.

Sikirica said he is certified in forensics and has conducted more than 9,000 autopsies. While he said he has testified for the prosecution between 400 and 500 times during criminal cases, he told Denno’s defense lawyer, Joe Brennan, during cross-examination that he has been a witness for the defense only three or four times.

At the time of the autopsy, Sikirica said, he received information about the possible nature of Rennie’s death from State Police.

There is no record of the information State Police gave him, he said.


The physician’s 15-page report states the cause of death as internal bleeding and severe blunt force trauma.

When Sikirica examined Rennie’s body, he estimated the man had been dead for between one and two days, as was evident in the stiffness of his joints.

The doctor said Rennie — who was 45 when he died — weighed about 118 pounds and was 67 inches tall at the time of the autopsy. He was dressed in a black tank top and blue shorts that had dirt and grass on them, Sikirica said, and wore brown sandals.


Thursday morning, Denno sat next to his lawyer wearing a blue, collared, button-down shirt and khaki-colored dress pants, as he had Wednesday in court.

He looked intently at each photograph of Rennie’s body, which had been taken by State Police technicians during the autopsy and then entered into evidence.

One showed Rennie’s face, mouth agape and eyes open and marked by a few cuts and bruises. 

Numerous pictures depicting many pink and purple bruises and abrasions on many parts of Rennie’s body were shown to Sikirica, who described each of them for the jury.

All of them appeared to be caused by blunt force trauma, the doctor told the jury.


A photo of Rennie’s left chest at the time of the autopsy showed a patterned impression on his skin, the doctor said.

“I thought that could be consistent with a footwear impression,” Sikirica. 

However, he said, “I’m not an expert in (identifying) certain types of patterned injuries.”

Rennie’s injuries could have been caused by a plethora of objects, he said.

Sikirica said he had arrived at that conclusion after he considered the geometric outlines, characteristics of the markings and measurements of the abrasions on Rennie’s skin.


Several of Rennie’s ribs on either side were fractured, as well as a bone beneath his jaw and an area in his neck, Sikirica said.

“The ribs had busted into the chest cavity of the lungs, cutting the tissue,” he said.

Rennie’s liver was seriously damaged also. Blunt force trauma can crush the liver, the doctor said.

“It tends to rip.”

The blood that flowed from Rennie’s liver and into his abdominal cavity was between 8,000 and 1,000 millileters, about one-quarter of Rennie’s total body blood volume, Sikirica said.

“Even with treatment, it would very likely cause death.”

Rennie’s lungs had also partially collapsed, Sikirica said.

“You very well could die from those injuries (alone).”


Sikirica said he found no injury to Rennie that would have resulted in a loss of consciousness.

There were no fractures in the man’s face, the doctor said, and the absence of a bloodshot appearance in his eyes indicated that there had been no restriction of blood flow to his head.

In the afternoon, the jury viewed the tape of Denno’s Sept. 11, 2012, interview with State Police.

Court resumes at 9:30 a.m. today.

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