Nfld. & Labrador

Efforts to save Dale Porter's life, DNA results revealed at murder trial

A doctor and paramedic described the life-saving efforts made after Dale Porter was found stabbed multiple times.

DNA evidence suggests Al Potter and victim may have shared cigarette

Al Potter, 55, smiles at the camera during Day 5 of his first-degree murder trial at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

For 45 minutes, they tried to save his life, to resuscitate the heart and give Dale Porter a fighting chance.

"[We were] kind of hopeless," Dr. Hasan Al-Obaidi said during his testimony Friday morning at the first-degree murder trial of Al Potter in St. John's.

Al-Obaidi and a team of nurses and doctors at Carbonear General Hospital worked for 15 minutes to save Porter — a fisherman, trucker and father of two — who had been stabbed several times.

Rehashing the trauma call from nearly five years ago, Al-Obaidi tried to remember the number of wounds he noticed while his colleagues tried to open Porter's airways, enter IVs and keep him alive.

"I don't recall for details but I remember he had one [wound] at the base of the neck on the left side and he had maybe two on the right side [of his chest], one at the arm pit and on his arms," he said. 

The most concerning wound was on Porter's neck. By the time he made it to hospital, the doctor said he "had already lost almost all of his blood."

Paramedic Andrea Sullivan arrived in North River to find a woman applying pressure to Dale Porter's neck, where he had a serious wound. (Court exhibit)

Andrea Sullivan, the paramedic on scene in the early morning hours of June 29, 2014, told the jury about being woken up around 4 a.m. to a call of a stabbing in North River.

"There was a couple bystanders screaming. One lady I remember was applying pressure to the left side of the neck and was screaming for our help," she said.

"He did have a pulse but was totally unresponsive."

Asked how many bystanders were there, Sullivan remembered four or five, but admits she was focused more on getting Porter out of the chaotic scene and to hospital as quick as possible.

Sullivan and an RCMP officer rode in the back of the ambulance, ventilating for Porter and covering his wounds, while her partner drove to the hospital. A second ambulance met them along the way to provide assistance.

"Did you strike Mr. Porter in the neck for medical or non medical reasons?" asked Crown prosecutor Erin Matthews.

"No."

"Do you recall your partner doing that?"

"No," Sullivan answered.

DNA results revealed

The first witness on the stand Friday was Florence Célestin, a DNA specialist from the RCMP's crime lab in Ottawa, who testified to the results of evidence processed.

She said the lab examined a grey Denver Hayes hoodie that the jury has already heard was seized from Potter after he was arrested in early July of 2014, in connection with Porter's death. He was not charged at that time.

Three stains were tested, with two coming back with Porter's DNA. The chances of the DNA belonging to someone else is one in 640 billion.

Police seized several cigarette butts from Dale Porter's driveway for testing. One of the butts contained DNA belonging to Porter and from his accused killer Al Potter, a jury heard Friday. (Court exhibit)

While brown in colour, testing did not reveal the stain was blood. However, Célestin said it's not ruled out as a possibility. 

"It could be blood, it could be some other biological material but in the end a [DNA] profile was obtained," Célestin explained. 

Staining discovered inside a Birch Hills taxi matched the DNA profile of the victim and another profile so minor that it couldn't be detected. 

The filter of a cigarette seized from Porter's driveway contained the DNA of two people — Potter and Porter.

How long does DNA last?

"Some people share a cigarette butt when they smoke," Célestin offered when asked by defence lawyer Randy Piercey how one item could have two DNA profiles.

The DNA, she said, would come from the skin cells inside the mouth, not from the saliva itself.

Meanwhile, Piercey pointed out it was Potter's blood and his alone that was found on a Vikings Motorcycle Club leather vest. 

Plastic evidence bags contain a Vikings Motorcycle Club vest, and a lighter seized from a clubhouse in Cupids, Conception Bay North. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

"lf I bled on my gown and left it there for the weekend, could you tell it was my DNA?" Piercey asked, referring to his lawyer's robes.

"Probably," Celestin said.

"How long will DNA stay in spilled blood?" he inquired.

"If the fabric is kept dry and away from moist environments, the DNA would remain intact," she said. 

The jury was let go early on Friday, as the Crown finished calling witnesses ahead of schedule. Next week, the court is expected to hear from friends of Porter. 

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland

Reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.