Saturday, August 2, 2003

Prosecution wraps up in Major murder trial

Jury is shown wife's damaged skull

By Stephenie Steitzer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - The state forensic anthropologist showed jurors in the William Alexander Major trial Friday the skull of Major's wife, whom he is charged with murdering in 1980.

The skull, found in 1981 on a farm about a mile from the Major home, was discolored, damaged and missing the jaw.

Dr. Emily Craig said Major's wife, Helen Marlene Major, was shot in the face at least once. She said the jaw was probably knocked off with something heavy, like a machete or an ax, and that someone had tried to sever the head from the rest of the body.

Prosecutors say Major, 59, of Fairhaven, Mass., killed his wife 23 years ago in Verona after she found out he was molesting their young son.

Helen Major's skull was recovered a year after she disappeared, but it took the advent of modern DNA analysis to positively identify the skull because the teeth had been removed.

Friday's testimony by Craig, Boone County Sheriff's Detective Todd Kenner and former Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center psychiatrist Victoria Yunker wrapped up the prosecution's weeklong presentation.

Yunker testified that while Major was at the center from December 2001 to February 2002 he would not cooperate with physicians.

Yunker said she and other staff on several occasions saw him move his left arm, which he claims he cannot control, when he thought nobody was looking. She said he also claims he cannot dress himself, but that she and staff saw him put his pants on.

Yunker said Major may be pretending to be ill.

Major has said he suffered a stroke in 1995, which caused him to forget previous incidents in his life. Yunker said the stroke was never documented.

Major listened as the prosecution played a tape recording from the night of July 28, 2001, when investigators combed the farm at which Major says he dumped his wife's body, which was never found.

On the tape, the jury heard Major talk about people he used to know, racing cars and his case.

"Do you see any chance that I'm going to walk on this?" he asked Kenner. "I've wanted to get this over and done with for a long time."

He continued: "I didn't mean to kill her, I really, truly didn't."

Defense attorney Ed Drennen has said his client is a "storyteller" and that Major cannot remember what happened before his stroke.

Soon after Helen Major's disappearance, Major moved to Rhode Island with the two children. In 1985, he was convicted of child sexual abuse and served nearly 12 years of a 15-year sentence.


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