Almost two years after his death, fingernail clippings belonging to Corey Antonio Best, which were taken by police and handed over to experts at the Forensic Sciences Centre (FSC) have yet to be analyzed.
Senior forensic scientist at the FSC Len Sehntawali made the disclosure this morning as he gave evidence at the inquiry into Best’s unnatural death in the Coroner’s Court located at Cane Garden, St Thomas.
The 33-year-old Best, formerly of Hopefield, Charnocks, Christ Church, was found hanging around 3 a.m. on April 13, 2017, in a cell at Oistins Police Station where he was in custody.
Sehntawali told Coroner Manila Renee that he received two items from Police Constable Wayne Griffith on May 9, 2017, bearing the marks “Corey Antonio Best”; a sealed brown paper bag containing a blue jeans pants and a sealed evidence bag containing fingernail clippings.
“The fingernail clippings were retained for further analysis,” the expert told the court, in the presence of the deceased’s mother, girlfriend and other family members.
However, Sehntawali explained that he did not conduct any analysis on the fingernail clippings himself but passed it on to the DNA section of the FSC for analysis.
He said he was still waiting on that section to inform him of the readiness to examine the fingernail clippings, 21 months after Best’s death.
“So what is the hold-up?” asked the Coroner. “This is 2019 . . . you had it since 2017.”
“Ma’am I do trace evidence, not DNA,” Sehntawali responded, before telling the court that the head of that department would be better able to answer that question.
He gave the assurance, though, that the integrity of the samples would remain uncompromised “for years . . . as long as they remained frozen”.
In relation to the blue jeans pants which officers alleged the deceased man used to hang himself, Sehntawali said his examination found no traces of blood.
“The long blue jeans was received with the left and right leg regions tied in a loose knot. This pants was relatively clean and tested negative for the presence of human blood,” he said.
Under cross-examination by Best’s family attorney Tristan Elcock, the forensic expert explained that macroscopic testing, which is a visual test with the use of a lighted lens was conducted on the clothing.
He said a microscopic test, as well as a biological test, were also conducted on the pants.
Sehntawali further explained that biological testing was limited to human blood.
“If skin is there then blood would be there . . . my macroscopic test revealed that the pants was relatively clean . . . there were no other stains,” he added.
He, however, explained that he had done tests in the past where blood was found, for example on rope
“In this case, the material presented for analysis was soft and would affect the absence or presence of blood as [it] was not as abrasive as rope,” the forensic scientist said.
Also taking the stand today was forensic analyst Michelle McComie, who disclosed that she was given a phial containing blood from the Royal Barbados Police Force bearing the distinguishing marks ‘Corey Antonio Best’, which was tested.
McComie said the blood was negative for ethanol as well as 11 other drugs including cocaine and “presumptively positive for THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol ) or marijuana at a level of 52.73 ml.
“This is considered a positive result [as] the minimum is 50 ml,” McComie explained.
Acting Assistant Superintendent of Police Dale Stephen who was in charge of the Southern Division at the time of the incident, also gave evidence.
Coroner Renee adjourned the inquest until Thursday when the court will make a site visit to the Oistins Police Station were Best was found hanging.