Manitoba

Wrenching testimony from pathologist, police on Day 4 of Brett Overby murder trial

Pathologist Dr. Dennis Rhee testified Friday at Brett Overby's second-degree murder trial, about his findings from Christine Wood's autopsy.

Victim's mother weeps as court is told about discovery of Christine Wood's body

Flowers were laid at the site where Christine Wood's remains were found buried on a farm field east of Winnipeg, in the RM of Springfield. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

Hands of support descended towards Melinda Wood's shoulders, as the pathologist who conducted her daughter's autopsy described how the 21-year-old died.

Dr. Dennis Rhee shared his findings Friday at Brett Overby's second-degree murder trial.

He told the court Wood was stabbed at least 14 times in the neck and upper back. 

Rhee said he also found two fractures on her body, one to the skull and another to the femur.

"This injury was caused by a significant force, a heavy blow," Rhee said about the skull fracture.

Crown prosecutor Brent Davidson asked Rhee if either fracture could have been caused by a fall down the stairs or being pushed into a wall.

Wood's DNA was found on the stairs and on a busted wall between two closets in Overby's basement.

"In my opinion, looking at this injury, it is more likely an object was used," said Rhee.

The pathologist said because Wood's body was found 10 months after she went missing, he couldn't be certain if she was killed by one of the stab wounds or by the blow to the head.

'There was bones in it'

The farmer who found Wood's remains on June 1, 2017, testified Friday morning.

Richard Vaags told the jury he made the discovery when doing a random crop check of his fields in the Rural Municipality of Springfield.

"This field is about a half mile from our residence," said Vaags. "I said to (my son) there are some weeds let's go check it."

Vaags said they were driving down a dirt, dead-end road and it was only after he got out of his vehicle that he noticed the ground had been disturbed.

"I said, 'Come back here, take a look at this hole,'" he testified. "There was bones in it."

Vaags said he marked the ditch with two orange flags and then called RCMP.

Christine Wood took a selfie using her mother's phone on the last day her family saw her, Aug. 19, 2016. The photo was shown in court Wednesday. (Melinda Wood)

Lindsay Scott, a civilian member of the RCMP forensic identification team, told the court she searched the area and located a cell phone, underwire from a bra and a pink piece of fabric.

It was at this point that Wood's mother broke down into tears and was comforted by a grandmother, who provides cultural and spiritual support to families of missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girls.

Wood's father testified earlier in the trial that his daughter had a pink hoodie the last time he saw her on Aug. 19, 2016.

Scott told the jury a piece of pink fabric was also found on Wood's body.

Overby was charged with second-degree murder in April 2017, eight months after Wood disappeared.

Brett Overby has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Christine Wood. (Instagram)

Earlier testimony revealed the two met on the digital dating platform Plenty of Fish on Aug. 19. The last two messages Wood sent were from Overby's IP address on Burrows Avenue.

The jury of nine men and three women was told on the trial's opening day Tuesday that Wood's remains were wrapped in plastic.

Const. Darren Murphy told the court the plastic found with the body matched the lot number of plastic sheeting found in Overby's basement and covering a wood pile in his back yard.

The Crown closed its case Friday after calling 13 witnesses over four days. 

Overby's lawyer said she will need two days to present her defence. She wouldn't say if she plans on calling her client to testify.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin said he expects the jury will begin deliberating next week.

The man in this photo was identified in court as Brett Overby by his ex-girlfriend. The woman was identified as Christine Wood by her mother. (Court exhibit)

About the Author

Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been reporting for a decade. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor