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Medical Examiner Testifies Cab Driver Was Stabbed 18 Times

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STORY COUNTY, Iowa - Cathy Stickley was stabbed 18 times in the face and neck with two of the wounds hitting her jugular vein and carotid artery that caused her to bleed out in a matter of minutes April 29, 2011, a deputy state medical examiner testified Wednesday.

Dr. Dennis Klein, with the Iowa State Medical Examiner's office in Ankeny, said the two sharp force injuries cutting through the blood vessels were 3 - and 4-inches deep but the others varied in size ranging from a half-inch to smaller.

Another significant 2-inch deep stab wound was to the corner of her left eye which penetrated soft tissue, the bone and injured part of her brain, Klein said as a photo was shown to the jury.

Johnathan Mitchell, 35, of Cedar Rapids, charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, is accused of killing Stickley, 55, a Century cab driver, that night during what started out as a robbery.

Stickley was found face down by her vehicle in the 1500 block alley between 2nd and 3rd avenues SE, according to testimony. She died from the stab wounds to her neck and head.

According to the prosecution's theory, Mitchell robbed and killed Stickley for money to pay for crack cocaine he bought earlier that evening.

The trial, which was moved to Story County District Court, was delayed after Wednesday's testimony because one of the prosecution's witnesses set to testify Tuesday changed his testimony. The attorneys deposed the witness late Tuesday and the defense asked the judge Wednesday for time to investigate the information before resuming the trial.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Robert Sosalla delayed the trial until 9 a.m. Friday to give the defense time to prepare.

Follow Gazette Reporter Trish Mehaffey's continuing live coverage from the courtroom. The trial will go into next week.

Klein, the only witness of the day, said Stickley also had defensive stab wounds on her hands and several abrasions or bruising to her body. Some were near the stab wounds and could have resulted from those but others were consistent with falling on the ground or something hitting her.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Matt Kishinami asked Klein if he could determine the size of a knife used in this attack.

Klein said the elasticity of the skin and the movement of the blade made that difficult. It was likely a single-edged knife and it could have been a kitchen or pocket knife. The wounds also are consistent with a single weapon but he couldn't rule out if more than one knife was used.

The knife used on Stickley was never recovered by police, according to earlier testimony.

Police officers speculated last week during the trial about the position of the attacker but Klein testified the attacker could have been in multiple positions including grabbing her from the backseat of the cab and stabbing her with the left or right hand or standing up while doing the stabbing.

Klein also said he couldn't determine if Stickley was sitting or standing when she was attacked. The wounds don't indicate position.

Kishinami asked if Klein has seen a case where a right-handed person stabbed another using the left hand.

"In my experience, I've seen a person use the non-dominant hand to stab someone," Klein said.

Klein said he also ran a drug screen on Stickley's blood and she tested negative for all drugs listed in the screen including cocaine.

The defense claimed Stickley was involved in "drug activity" that night which could have been a motive for someone to kill her.

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