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Posted on Thu. Dec. 13, 2012 - 12:04 am EDT

Trial jury in slaying sees grisly stab photos

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FORT WAYNE — While a pathologist droned on with technical terms and medical-speak Wednesday, jurors watched as photos of a bloodied Claude Berkshire were shown one after another on a screen.

Someone had taken a sharp object to the 85-year-old’s face and neck, cutting his carotid artery in half before dropping him face first onto the concrete of his garage.

Prosecutors allege that someone is 35-year-old Joseph A. Kast, whose trial on one count of murder in Berkshire’s killing will resume in an Allen County courtroom this morning. Today’s proceedings will be the fourth day of the scheduled five-day trial.

Berkshire’s killing occurred in 2002, but Kast wasn’t charged with the crime until 2010 after he allegedly confessed to the slaying while serving prison time for an entirely separate killing.

Kast’s sanity and competency to stand trial have been an issue since he was charged, with more than 18 months of delays finally culminating with the start of his trial this week.

“As you can see, it is cut right in half,” said Dr. Robert Gutekunst, explaining to the jury and pointing to a picture of Berkshire’s carotid artery. The pathologist performed an autopsy on Berkshire in 2002.

Gutekunst testified that, judging by the way multiple cuts on Berkshire’s neck began like incisions on the front and got deeper toward the man’s back, it’s likely someone came up from behind him with a knife.

There is little hard evidence linking Kast to Berkshire’s killing, with prosecutors relying on his confession and the testimony from Gutekunst, who was the state’s last witness.

Berkshire was killed in his garage, probably while preparing to feed birds before heading to a nearby Catholic church, prosecutors have said.

His daughter found his body later that day.

Kast was convicted of killing a Huntington County building inspector who was found dead days after Berkshire. Kast is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence for that killing.

After writing to a Fort Wayne police detective in 2010, Kast sat with the detective for a recorded interview and reportedly admitted the killing while providing some details. But interspersed with those details were strange stories.

Kast spoke of his telepathic abilities. He said he combined license plate numbers into phone numbers and then dialed them, asking people who answered what they wanted, and also told the detective about demon faces he would see in wood floors and about shadows moving without any light source.

Kast spoke with his attorneys during Wednesday’s proceedings and even pointed things out on a screen showing photos from Berkshire’s autopsy. Several mental health experts are expected to testify today.

jeffwiehe@jg.net


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