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Insect Expert Testifies in Hartsdale Homicide Trial

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A high-profile entomologist testifying in the case of a Hartsdale man accused of neglecting his mother as she died on their living room couch said Tuesday that he found at least two colonies of flies and maggots living on the woman’s skin.

Neal Haskell, who most notably testified as an expert witness in the Casey Anthony case in Orlando, Fla., said Tuesday in state Supreme Court in White Plains that there were “hundreds, if not thousands, of maggots crawling and feeding” on Ida Austin’s body when she died in July 2010.

“They were all over,” said Haskell, a professor of forensic science and biology at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind., and a private forensic entomologist.

The insect expert, who has testified in more than 450 criminal cases and helped inspire the television show "CSI," is one of the few board-certified forensic entomologists in the country.

He took the stand in the second week of the trial of James Austin, who has been charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of his 71-year-old mother.

Haskell testified he was given three samples of maggots from Austin’s body, including ones that had infested a sore in her right leg, as well as nearly 100 dead flies collected from the living room.

“There were multiple generations here,” he said of the insects.

Haskell said Austin’s skin would have been necrotic, or having dead tissue, for at least 16 days while she was still alive for flies to have developed to that stage. He added that it was “most likely a lot longer.”

For the second time in the trial, prosecutors showed the jury pictures of Austin’s body taken by police. The graphic images showed the 80-pound woman covered in gaping black and red sores, lying on a filthy couch and surrounded by grime-covered blankets.

Last week, prosecutors showed video of Austin admitting in an interview with Greenburgh police to giving his mother two cans of Raid to fight off the bugs.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Earl Raynor asked Haskell if he was aware of the piles of food stashed under the couch cushions or urine and feces that had accumulated on Austin.

“That is not what attracted those flies,” Haskell said, instead contending it was the smell of Austin’s dying skin that attracted the insects.

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