Medical examiner testifies in Martinson case - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Medical examiner testifies in Martinson case

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Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 4:00 pm | Updated: 1:40 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

Jeffrey Martinson's defense attorney attempted this week to prove that the medical examiner who did the autopsy on his defendant's son's body in 2005 may not have been completely thorough in his examination.

Dr. John Hu conducted an autopsy on 5-year-old Joshua Eberle-Martinson after his body was found inside his father's apartment in 2004, at the end of a weekend visit.

Through questioning from defense attorney Michael Terribile, Hu testified that autopsy findings could have been consistent with drowning, channelopathy, a severe allergic reaction to ant bites, insecticide poisoning, or even a possible birth defect.

Hu said that Terribile was correct when he said the cause of death, in this case, was determined through the process of elimination. Hu also agreed that the foam coming from Joshua's nose could have been a symptom of drowning, and the small abrasion on the inside of his lip, as well as his hyper-inflated lungs, could have been a sign of an attempt to resuscitate.

Tests that would have ruled out channelopathy, a disease that can cause sudden cardiac death, or anaphylaxis, an extreme allergic reaction to an insect bite, were never ordered.

The state argued that Hu combined autopsy findings with the surrounding circumstances when he named the manner of death "Carisoprodol toxicity," and the cause of death a homicide.

Terribile asked Hu if he felt pressured to build a case for the state when he was doing the autopsy, and relying too much on what he had been told by detectives. Hu said he did not feel any pressure to make a certain conclusion, but that he was relying heavily on the circumstances to determine the death.

According to the autopsy, Joshua had toxic levels of a drug called Soma, or Carisoprodol, in his blood. Hu testified Tuesday that the drug was a depressant, usually prescribed to adults with chronic back pain. The bottle's cap was designed to be difficult for a child to open and the bottle itself was found empty on a high shelf with the lid back on, Hu said.

Hu said symptoms of the drug could be a slowing of the central nervous system, sleepiness, shallow breathing and, when overdosed, could stop breathing and lead to organ failure.

Martinson, Joshua's father, is being charged with first-degree murder in the case. Martinson told police he attempted suicide and passed out that Saturday night in August of 2004. He said that when he awoke on Sunday, he found Joshua dead, and then tried to commit suicide again by overdosing on Tylenol PM. Martinson was found in the master bedroom of the house with cuts on his wrists.

Joshua's mother, Kristin Eberle, became worried when Martinson did not return their son to her on Sunday morning. Eberle had received several orders of protection against Martinson, but he was still allowed weekend visits.

The trial is expected to continue until Oct. 28.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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