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Wise murder trial continues

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Family members of 88-year-old Mattie Mabel Berry, who was found dead in her backyard on May 3, 2009, were holding back tears while the prosecution presented jurors with photographs from Berry's autopsy on the second day of the murder trial of Tiffany Wise.

Wise is currently on trial for the murder of Berry, whom she met while living as a resident at the Albany Rescue Mission where Berry taught Sunday school.

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards, called Dr. Steven Atkinson, a GBI medical examiner who performed Berry's autopsy, to testify.

Atkinson answered numerous questions from the prosecution while he explained to jurors how the cause of death was determined in Berry's case. Photographs of Berry's body were shown in the courtroom as

Atkinson explained in detail the 88-year-old woman's injuries.

The prosecution contends that Wise brutally beat Berry to death with a large stone, glass, plates and a cinder block that Sunday afternoon.

The medical examiner said bruises and abrasions covered Berry's body and that all the wounds were caused by blunt force trauma.

"The cause of death is blunt force head trauma," Atkinson told the court while on the witness stand Tuesday. "The manner of death is homicide."

Atkinson showed jurors that most of Berry's wounds were located on her face and head. Berry's skull had been fractured and four large cuts could be seen on the backside of Berry's scalp.

Several officers with the Albany Police Department also took the stand today to testify about the night of Berry's murder.

Throughout the day's testimony, officers described the scene at Berry's residence on the 1200 block of Highland Avenue on the morning of May 3.

Officers said the exterior of the residence was secure and that the fencing surrounding Berry's property had to be cut through with bolt cutters to enter into the backyard where officers had discovered Berry's body beneath a blanket.

Officer Jermaine Lewis said the front door to Berry's home was locked and that he had to kick the door in to gain entrance to the residence. The officer said he discovered blood throughout the home.

Lt. John Bryant said he discovered a cement block in the backyard that "looked like it had blood on it."

Berry's neighbors were next to take the witness stand as Roosevelt Chambers, his wife and granddaughter recounted what they saw the day of Berry's murder.

Chambers, Berry's next door neighbor for 15 years, said he was exercising on his stationary bike on his backporch that Sunday morning when he heard loud noises coming from Berry's home.

"It was like a falling-over, scuffling noise," Chambers said of the sound he heard. "I heard the noise real good and it continued."

Wise's council, Leisa Terry, played an audio sample of Chamber's interview with police in which he stated that he heard Berry's dog barking and thought he heard Berry's voice that morning.

Chambers also testified that a dark colored vehicle was parked in front of Berry's house on the morning of May 3, but could not see exactly who was in the vehicle.

Chambers said he told his wife, Constance, and granddaughter Ravyn to go over to Berry's home and check on her.

Chambers' wife testified that she and her granddaughter went next door to Berry's home and knocked on the door. She said a dark skinned woman with dreadlocks, later identified in court as Wise, answered the door and told her that Berry was not at home because a friend had taken her to church.

"It was unusual," Chambers said of the statement. "Ms. Berry usually drove herself to church."

Chambers said she recognized Wise as the women who opened the door that day because "I will never forget that face."

The Chambers family continued their testimony in which they told the jury they called police on a cordless phone while keeping watch of Berry's home from a porch on the side of the yard.

Constance said she later saw Wise exit Berry's home in a long white dress -- clothing different from what she was wearing when she had answered Berry's door earlier. She said Wise got into a blue Ford Explorer and drove away alone.

Ravyn said she took down the vehicle's tag numbers, which were later given to police.

While on the witness stand, APD officer Zandia Prince, said she was working the front desk at the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) on the afternoon of May 3, 2009 around 3 p.m. when a hysterical women covered in blood showed up at the center.

Prince said the woman had her hands wrapped in a towel and was bleeding.

"I went outside and asked what was wrong. She identified herself as Dorothy Wise," said the officer.

The women was later identified as Tiffany Wise, police said.

Detective Terrence Whitlock said Wise told detectives that her sister had brought her in after she reported that she and Berry were attacked by a third party and that she had sustained wounds from her hands from the attack.

A two-part video and audio tape was played for jurors Tuesday of the interview of Wise conducted by detectives at the LEC that Sunday evening.

The video opened on Wise alone in a room at the LEC where Wise was crying and repeatedly saying, "What happened?" and "Oh my God, please help me."

During the first part of the video Wise began to cry softly at the defense table in the courtroom and became increasing emotional to the point where the cries from the murder suspect in the courtroom and Wise on the video were almost indistinguishable.

"I'm a good person," she told detectives during the interview. "I've been trying for so long to get my life together."

Wise admitted to detectives she purchased $100 worth of crack cocaine on May 2 and had taken it after previously claiming she had been clean for years.

Wise has pleaded not guilty to malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another.

The trial continues today with testimonies from Dougherty County Coroner Emma Quimbley and family members of the defendant.