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Expert witness says fracture on Dylan’s skull consistent with blunt force trauma

Wildlife official testifies bears, cougars don’t travel miles with kills
Diane France, a forensic anthropologist, points out the blunt force fracture that she found on the front of Dylan Redwine's skull as she testifies Thursday, the ninth day of Mark Redwine’s trial in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

A forensic anthropologist said Thursday that a fracture found on Dylan Redwine’s skull is consistent with blunt force trauma at or near the time of his death in November 2012.

The evidence of blunt force trauma was presented Thursday during the ninth day of a jury trial for Mark Redwine, a La Plata County man who is charged with second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of his 13-year-old son.

When asked by a prosecutor if the fracture could have been caused by moving or dropping the skull, Diane France, the forensic anthropologist, said, “No.” The question was relevant after an off-trail hiker who found the skull in November 2015 testified Wednesday that he dropped the skull “at knee-length” after handling the skeletal remains.

Marks indicating injuries by a sharp tool were also found on the zygomatic arch on the skull, which forms the cheek area, France testified.

France also analyzed a selection of Dylan’s remains before the skull was found. She found evidence of “scavenging,” which is when animals consume already-killed remains. Groove and puncture marks on the bones from biting or gnawing were also found.

A forensic anthropologist testified Thursday about signs of trauma on Dylan Redwine’s skull. Mark Redwine, the boy’s father, is suspected of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of the 13-year-old boy. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Anthropologists can determine if injuries occur before or after death based on fracture patterns, France said.

No marks caused by tools or human activity were found on the first remains analyzed.

France noted the nature of the recovery sites and testified the area where Dylan’s first remains and possessions were found looked like “a pretty classic dumpsite.”

The location in the backcountry northeast of Vallecito Reservoir is within 50 yards of road access and a downhill access point, where a suspect could easily drop remains and evidence, she testified.

Defense lawyers have suggested Dylan may have been killed in a fatal animal attack, not at the hands of his father. But wildlife biologist Heather Johnson testified Wednesday that a bear or mountain lion attack would have been “highly unlikely” because of hibernation patterns and typical animal behavior exhibited in November.

Dylan Redwine
Mark Redwine looks over evidence as Diane France, a forensic anthropologist, testifies Thursday during Redwine’s trial in Durango. Redwine is charged with second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of his son, Dylan Redwine. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Additionally, some of Dylan’s remains and personal effects were separated by 5 miles. It would have been highly unusual, if not unheard of, for a bear or mountain lion to carry remains and personal possessions that far, said Drayton Harrison, a now-retired wildlife manager in the Durango area, who testified Thursday morning.

“It's all about where your next meal (is) coming and conserving energy,” Harrison said.

Harrison has seen coyotes carry items to different areas, but only a half-mile at most, he testified.

If a fatal animal attack occurred, there would also be a clear site of a disturbance where paw prints, torn apart clothing and blood would be present, he said.

Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.

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