Medical examiners differ in testimony regarding death of Caribou man
CARIBOU, Maine — Family members of a Caribou man who died in 2017 following injuries suffered in a physical confrontation that began as a verbal spat on Facebook grimaced, lowered their heads and cried quietly Thursday as autopsy photos were displayed in court.
Relatives of Jean C. Bragdon have spent the week in court hearing testimony in the case against Jonathan Limary, 23, of Presque Isle. Limary is accused of manslaughter and aggravated assault in the death of the 44-year-old dishwasher, who died on Nov. 17, 2017, at the home of his best friend in Caribou.
Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, Maine’s chief medical examiner, who testified for more than four hours Thursday, told jurors that Bragdon suffered multiple shattered and fractured facial bones, including his nasal, orbital, cheek and jaw bones. He said that Bragdon required two reconstructive surgeries to correct the damage after Limary kicked him in the face while he was down on his hands and knees after an Oct. 30, 2017, fight with another Caribou man.
Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis told jurors during opening arguments on Tuesday that Bragdon and Limary were strangers to each other until the evening when the fight happened in the parking lot of a Caribou business. Bragdon went there to fight another man, 20-year-old Andrew Geer of Presque Isle, he said.
Geer testified that after he and Bragdon scuffled for approximately 90 seconds, with each landing punches, he backed away from the “winded” victim. That is when he said Limary “came out of nowhere” and kicked him.
Limary admitted to police that he had kicked the victim.
Jason Willette Sr., Bragdon’s best friend, testified that the fight stemmed from a dispute between Geer and Jason Willette Jr. on Facebook over comments being made about Brittney Willette, who is Willette Sr.’s daughter and Willette Jr.’s sister.
Bragdon, who was visiting the Willettes, saw the comments, took offense and demanded Geer meet him to fight.
Flomenbaum said that Bragdon’s surgeries were necessary for facial reconstruction and because the broken bones compromised his breathing. Approximately 10 hours after he was released from the hospital following the second surgery in November 2017, Bragdon collapsed and died at the Willette residence.
He listed Bragdon’s cause of death as hemorrhagic complications following multiple fractures of the facial bones following blunt force trauma to the head. He walked jurors through photos that showed a bloody, deceased Bragdon, as well as through autopsy photos of his head and neck. He said that Bragdon began bleeding from his sinuses and ultimately exsanguinated, coughing and spitting up large amounts of blood in the bathroom where he died.
This testimony differed from that of the defense’s expert witness, Maryland Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Fowler. He said he agreed that Bragdon bled to death, but said the source of the bleeding was Bragdon’s tracheostomy site. Bragdon required a tracheostomy to provide an opening in his windpipe so he could breathe during surgery, which left a hole in his neck that doctor’s bandaged, according to testimony.
He testified that Bragdon accidentally moved the tube until it entered into an artery and caused him to hemorrhage. He also believed that Bragdon’s bleeding was exacerbated when he removed the gauze over the wound so that Willette Jr. could photograph it.
During cross examination by Ellis, however, Fowler acknowledged that he hadn’t realized that Bragdon’s tube was removed in the hospital two days prior to his death, and that both Willettes testified that Bragdon had only removed the gauze after he began choking on blood in the moments before his death.
Defense Attorneys Adam Swanson and Hunter Tzovarras have maintained that Limary’s use of physical force against Bragdon was necessary to protect himself and others and that Limary did not cause Bragdon’s death.
Both have pointed to testimony from several witnesses that Bragdon was still furious after the fight and wanted to get back up again to confront the others.
After the prosecution rested late on Thursday, the defense began its case.
Aroostook County Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II is presiding over the jury trial.