MURDER VICTIM HEAVILY SEDATED, TOXICOLOGIST SAYS

July 18, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE The prosecution Wednesday in day three of the Liysa King-Northon murder trial seemed intent on showing that the victim was not intoxicated, but was instead sedated with a hell of a lot of a Valium-type drug.

Meanwhile, the defense focused on alleged mishandling of evidence.

King-Northon, 39, of Bend is charged with killing her husband, Chris Northon, while he slept at a Lostine River Canyon campground Oct. 9.

There was no alcohol in Chris Northons blood, J. Robert Swanson, a toxicologist for the Oregon State Medical Examiners Office testified. The slight amount of alcohol in the urine could have been from fermentation, rather than drinking alcohol, he said. There is no preservative in urine vials to prevent that.

Blood tests indicated that Northon had not smoked marijuana within five days of his death, said Dr. Robert Alan Middleberg, a forensic toxicologist from the National Medical Service Association in New Jersey.

Middleberg testified that amounts of substances found are categorized as a little, some, a lot, or a hell of a lot.

A lot to a hell of a lot of Restoril, a Valium-family sedative, was found in Chris Northons blood, Middleberg said. It was likely equivalent to having taken, all at once, three to five 30-milligram capsules, Middleberg said.

The sedative induces lethargy and sleep within 30 to 60 minutes, Middleberg said. The level of the drug in Northon could have caused a coma or death, Middleberg said.

Northon died from a single bullet wound through his head, a pathologist had testified Tuesday.

In the defenses cross-examination Wednesday in Wallowa County Circuit Court, Middleberg stopped short of agreeing that the victim could have had a rage reaction to the drug dosage.

Less than one half of one percent of people on the drug sense anger, and have their prescription changed, Middleberg said. He has heard no reports of violence.

There were no drugs or prescription bottles at the death scene, according to law enforcement officers. A couple of partially empty liquor bottles were there, Oregon State Police Forensic Lab Supervisor Jeff Dovei had said Tuesday

Dick Northon, father of the deceased, testified he and his son were very close. The father said he never knew of his son taking sleeping pills or using marijuana.

Dick Northon also testified Wednesday regarding the defenses continuing queries about where some evidence had been for months.

While in Bend, Dick Northon was unloading his sons Suburban after it was released by authorities. He found a blue tarp and a blue sleeping pad, each with a hole in it. There appeared to be dried blood on the pad.

Dick Northon said he locked the two items in his garage. When he attended a hearing in May in Enterprise regarding the case, he gave the items to Wallowa County District Attorney Dan Ousley.

Former Sheriff Ron Jett testified that he then had the pad and tarp logged as evidence. Reading his own handwriting on an evidence tag on a bag containing the pad and tarp, he noted hed written ...the chain of evidence has been lost.

Jett initially received the call about the possible homicide. He had sent former Undersheriff

Rich Stein to investigate at the campground.

Stein, testifying on Tuesday, said that he was busy with his campaign for sheriff, and he turned the case over to Wallowa County Sheriffs Deputy Matt Cross.

Shortly after the Nov. 11 election, Jett had retired, Stein had lost the election and retired, and Cross had resigned.

Wednesday ended with several motions being made regarding

evidence.