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Pathologist said victim in Park West murder was stabbed 17 times

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Retired Crime Scene Investigator of the Greenville Police Department, Earl Lavoie displays a bloody t-shirt to the jury during Michael O'Neal's trial at the Pitt County Courthouse, Wednesday morning. The shirt belonged to Michael O'Neal and contained the blood of Steven Rouse. Lavoie worked on the case extensively up until his retirement.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, April 26, 2018

During the third day of the Park West stabbing trial, a forensic pathologist testified before jurors that Steven Joseph Rouse, 22, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, died from three lethal stab wounds to his chest and sustained 14 other stab wounds all over his body.

According to police, Rouse was stabbed multiple times on October 19, 2015, during an altercation that started about 7 p.m. in the Park West neighborhood, which is adjacent to the Walmart Neighborhood Market where he was found. 

Michael Anthony O'Neal is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Rouse. O’Neal, 24, of 4302 Evans St., is one of four co-defendants facing charges in the case. The three other co-defendants, Curtis Wade, Zataysia Taylor and Chenitra Mona Gramby are awaiting trial. 

Dr. Karen Kelly, a pathologist at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine said that Rouse likely was defending himself from his attackers when he was killed.

Kelly said that Rouse was stabbed in the chest, heart, lungs, scalp, shoulder, head, neck, chest, arms, legs and his upper abdomen.

In explaining Rouse’s autopsy, Kelly said he sustained multiple blunt force injuries and sharp force injuries, caused by a sharp object such as a knife. His defensive wounds were primarily on his arms, wrist and elbow.

Witnesses told police they observed Rouse running from two men and saw fighting in a field behind the store.

A former Greenville Police officer testified on Wednesday that he attempted life-saving measures when he encountered Rouse.   

“I was responding to a fight in progress at Walmart,” the officer said. “Next to a field, I observed people standing around.  One subject was laying on the ground, gasping for air, bleeding from his head, chest, side and neck. He had multiple lacerations, his wrist was broken and the bone was protruding. I started CPR and tried to apply pressure with a green shirt I found laying near him.  Blood was bubbling and his eyes had rolled back in his head.”

Rouse was transported to Vidant Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.  

After Rouse was stabbed, co-defendant Curtis Lamar Wade, 28, took O'Neal to Vidant Medical Center for minor injuries he sustained in the incident.

Detectives interviewed Wade and O'Neal and spoke to witnesses. They were able to connect Wade and O'Neal to Rouse's death. Both men were charged with felony first-degree murder and booked in the Pitt County Detention Center, each under a $2 million bond.

Investigators on scene recovered multiple items including a pocket knife, tennis shoes and a cellphone.  On Wednesday, jurors were shown each of the items. 

Bloody clothing from O’Neal and Wade was collected at the hospital and also shown to jurors.  

DNA expert Jennifer Elwell also testified, but said that many of the items sent to the state crime lab for processing, including the handle of the pocket knife, did not have enough DNA to be tested. The blade of the knife did however contain Rouse’s DNA on it. O’Neal’s and traces of Rouse’s blood was found on Wade’s clothing.    

Testimony continues today.

Tyler Stocks can be contacted at tstocks@reflector.com and 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR.

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