DURHAM, N.C. — Jurors in the Robert Petrick murder trial heard evidence Thursday about a cadaver dog and a hangman's noose -- evidence that the prosecution argued placed Janine Sutphen's dead body in the couple's home and raises question's about Petrick's mental state.
The prosecution dangled before jurors a hangman's noose -- a thick black nylon rope found in the home Petrick shared with his wife the day after Sutphen's body surfaced in Falls Lake -- four months after she was reported missing.
"It was located at the top of the stairwell hanging over the banister," said Durham police investigator Terry Mikels.
The prosecutor told the judge he believes Petrick planned to kill himself after watching news reports about the discovery of his wife's body, but Petrick argued that anyone could have put the rope in his town home.
"So, it's certainly possible it was left by other parties?" Petrick, who is representing himself, asked Mikels.
"Anything's possible," Mikels said.
Jurors also heard testimony suggesting Sutphen's body was in the couple's home for a period of time before it was dumped in the lake.
Ray McNeil, a cadaver dog handler, told jurors during a search of the couple's home, a dog detected smells of human remains in the bedroom and the trunk of Petrick's car.
"The whole upstairs area basically, was a big scent of decomposing human remains," McNeil said. "And various places were stronger than others."
Five days after Petrick reported his wife missing, police brought in the cadaver dogs to search the couple's home and surrounding property.
McNeil told jurors that even though there may not be any physical evidence, dogs can detect the gasses and body fluids released after death.
Petrick's trial is expected to resume Monday. Court is in recess Friday to observe Veterans' Day.
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