Monroe Co. Medical Examiner Nadia Granger testifies in Iryn Meyers trial

BATH — Several witnesses testified Wednesday in the second-degree murder trial of Iryn Meyers, but testimony from Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. Nadia A. Granger may have been the most difficult for the family of David N. O’Dell to hear.

Granger testified about the autopsy findings for O’Dell, a 60-year-old Wayland resident who perished in a early morning house fire in his home on New Galen Road on Feb. 15, 2016.

Granger testified that O’Dell died of “smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.” Her stark, clinical testimony describing O’Dell’s badly burned remains, including multiple thermal fractures, limb amputations and brain tissue burnage came as David O’Dell’s brother, Phillip O’Dell, sister, Phyllis Reamer, and niece Tammy Reamer, sat quietly in the first row of the courtroom, directly behind the defense table.

Granger said the Medical Examiner’s Office positively identified David O’Dell by comparing the backbone on his remains to an old medical X-ray of his vertebrae. Due to the fire damage, facial identification was not possible, nor were O’Dell’s fingerprints useful, as they were destroyed in the fire, Granger testified.

She said O’Dell’s remains weighed 97 pounds and were 41 inches long. Granger said O’Dell did not have alcohol or drugs in his system. She said the autopsy found two cardiac anomalies: a heavier than normal heart and a valve that attached to his heart in a place that is not normal. She testified that the anomalies were not a factor in O’Dell’s death.

The lead medical examiner in Monroe County was questioned during direct examination by Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker.

Iryn Meyers, 38, is charged with plotting with her husband, Joseph Meyers, to burn down the New Galen Road house, kill O’Dell and collect some $140,000 in insurance, including a policy on O’Dell’s life.

Iryn Meyers has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which in addition to second-degree murder includes first degree arson, insurance fraud, attempted insurance fraud, conspiracy and making a false written statement.

Joseph Meyers was convicted of several felonies in May including first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree arson. Steuben County Court Judge Joseph W. Latham sentenced Joseph Meyers to spend 23 years to life in state prison. Meyers has appealed his guilty verdicts.

O’Dell family members were not in the courtroom in May when Granger provided nearly identical testimony in the Joseph Meyers trial. Phyllis Reamer said Granger’s testimony was the most detailed description she has heard of her brother’s fatal injuries.

“It was a little hard, but I made it through,” she said. “It was difficult but I had my head down. It was hard to listen to what was done to him while he was alive.”

Phyllis Reamer said she took occasional glances at Iryn Meyers while the medical examiner was on the stand.

“I don’t think (the testimony) bothered her one bit,” Reamer said of Iryn Myers.

“It tears your heart right out,” added Phillip O’Dell. “Your baby brother. (That) somebody whose is supposedly good friends would do something like that to him, to that extreme. Why they would do it at all, I don’t know. It just rips your heart out.”

Granger testified that “soot” found in David O’Dell’s airways provided the first “hints that Mr. O’Dell was alive at the time of the fire.”

That belief was confirmed, she said, when tests showed that the carbon monoxide level in his blood was 75 percent. Granger said that level (death could occur at 50 percent, she said) could only be achieved by taking in smoke through the airways for a significant amount of time.

Phillip O’Dell believes Granger’s testimony provides some insight into his brother’s final moments, but he would like to know why his brother did not react to the fire.

“I had heard before that his legs were broke and his arms were broke and that his skull was fractured, but the one thing I don’t know for sure is did they hit him in the head with a hammer? This was brought up, but it was never proven.

“But like (Granger) said, you know, it could have been from the heat, the fracture of the skull. I mean, who knows?

“I think he was unconscious, but he was still alive, but he was unconscious, and that’s why he couldn’t move,” he said.

The prosecution has not alleged or introduced any evidence in the trial that David O'Dell was struck in the head on the night of the fire. A witness did testify in Joseph Meyers' trial that Meyers himself had complained that police believed he had struck O'Dell in the head around the time of the fire.

Phillip O'Dell said he remains committed to seeing that his brother gets justice.

“I go up to his grave every weekend, and I tell him, every weekend, ‘I will get justice for you. As I have gotten one, I will get the other one.’

“I am confident that we will get her. I have no doubt in my mind that we will get her.”

Other witnesses

Also Wednesday, the jury heard the testimony of Dr. Daniel Curtin, the town of Wayland medical officer. Curtin told the jury that he conducted a health inspection of O'Dell's residence on Dec. 11, 2015, two months before the fire. Curtin said the house was "very fit to live in" and met sanitary conditions.

Curtin said after completing his first walk-through of the house, he talked with Iryn Meyers about his findings and his recommendation that O'Dell be allowed to continue living there.

"She was upset and felt that it was not livable," Curtin testified.

According to Curtin, Iryn Meyers told him that O'Dell was having mental health issues, that the house was filthy, full of debris, "nasty and unlivable" and "he needs not to live in that house anymore."

Under cross examination by defense attorney Brenda Smith Aston, Curtin testified that clutter and junk was piled so high on the second floor of the house that it prevented egress into and out of rooms. Even so, he testified that the upstairs remained livable.

Prosecutors say David O'Dell had sold the house to Iryn Meyers for $8,000 with the stipulation that he would have life-use of the residence. That stipulation would have been voided if O'Dell moved into a mental health facility.

Sister testifies

Another O'Dell family member, youngest sister Laurie Mills, was not in the courtroom during Granger's testimony as she was on the prosecution's witness list and as such she was not allowed to hear other witnesses until the conclusion of her own testimony. When she did take the stand in the afternoon, she called her brother "a simple man with a dry sense of humor and honest to a fault."