Huma Nasir, a forensic scientist at the private Orchid Cellmark lab in Dallas, Texas, took the stand just after lunch Tuesday and explained how she tested evidence submitted by police that included hairs of unknown origin and as well as “known” samples, including a buccol, or cheek, swab from Daker.
“My conclusion is that … the hair is identified as originating from Waseem Daker,” Nasir said. She is admitted as an expert witness in several states and said she has testified more than 75 times, including once before in a different homicide case in Cobb.
Her lab is independent, though it is required to follow Federal Bureau of Investigation guidelines, and the lab does work for both prosecutors and defense cases. The Innocence Project is also a client of the lab’s, she said.
Other hairs were insufficient for nuclear DNA testing, she said, because they either didn’t have any root or tissue attached or were not human hairs.
Nasir explained at length that it is unlikely the hair could have been planted, given the results.
“If hair came from one individual and a different individual deposited their skin cells on the outside of the hair, we would’ve gotten a mixture profile. We would’ve seen DNA from two different individuals,” she said.
Cobb Police Detective John Dawes, who testified Monday, delivered the evidence to her lab in person and requested she first look at three hairs, including this one, but this was the only one suitable for nuclear DNA testing.
Nasir was on the stand for about two hours Tuesday afternoon. She didn’t have to take a break, though prosecutor Jesse Evans had her explain to jurors at the outset that could happen. She has had some serious health issues in recent weeks and had to fly to Atlanta accompanied by two paramedics.
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from three defense witnesses, two of whom painted different pictures of one of the victims in this case.
Melody Fortin, who with her husband, Joseph, owns Paintball Atlanta, testified for the defense Tuesday morning and described Loretta Spencer Blatz as a “very bossy” person who “was always trying to tell everybody else what to do.”
In addition to the murder of Karmen Smith, Daker is charged with the nonfatal stabbing of Smith’s young son, Nick, and criminal attempt to commit aggravated stalking against Loretta Spencer Blatz.
Spencer Blatz lived upstairs from the Smiths, and in 1996, Daker was convicted of stalking her and spent a decade in prison.
The current stalking charge stems from prosecutors’ contention that he was in Spencer Blatz’s residence on the day of the murder, Oct. 23, 1995, in violation of a Fulton County restraining order.
Melody Fortin told jurors Tuesday morning that in 1995, she believed Daker and Spencer Blatz were in a relationship, which she thought was wrong, given the difference in their ages. Spencer Blatz was about 30, while Daker was 16 or 17.
“She was always right next to you, hanging on you,” Fortin said. “Even when I’d asked her not to ... I thought it was inappropriate for her to be hanging on you all the time. She would do it no matter what. She was flirting with you, giggling, laughing, just constantly. It really concerned me.”
She also testified she was aware that Spencer Blatz was inviting teenage players over to her apartment, which Fortin also found inappropriate and said so.
“She said she thought it was fine,” Fortin said, referring to Spencer Blatz. “You were all 14, 15, 16 and I thought it was absolutely wrong. It worried me as a business owner. These kids played on my field and ... here’s an adult inviting them to party at her house. It could put a bad name to our business.”
Joseph Fortin took the stand after his wife and told jurors that Spencer Blatz had been asked not to play at Paintball Atlanta in the summer of 1995.
“I do remember we asked her not to be there. That was a result of a restraining order and she shouldn’t be there as a result. You (Daker) had always been there. The problems showed up when she showed up, and so we didn’t want her there.”
But both Fortins acknowledged under oath that what they knew about any restraining order they heard from other people.
Earlier, the defense called James Furgal as an expert witness on knives. He is the former president and CEO of Camillus Cutlery in New York.
On cross examination by prosecutor Jason Saliba, Furgal said he was hired as a witness through an agency and his fee was $100 per hour plus expenses.
Daker then asked Furgal if other witnesses, including police, and others in the courtroom including Saliba and lead prosecutor Evans are paid to be there, causing Saliba to object and then declare: “I just want to make it real clear for taxpayers: I don’t make $100 an hour to be here.”