Public Safety

In murder trial, medical examiner says gunshot led to infection that killed Cedar Rapids' man 4 months later

CEDAR RAPIDS — An associate state medical examiner testified Thursday a 27-year-old Cedar Rapids man’s death was caused by complications from an infection that developed after being shot more than four months earlier.

Dr. Kelly Kruse, of the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner, said she was “certain” the infection was caused by the gunshot injuries to Tyrice Douglas on Dec. 19, 2018, and led to his death May 6 of this year.

Ezekiel Phillips, 30, is on trial in Linn County District Court for first-degree murder, attempted murder, going armed with intent and willful injury. He is accused of firing multiple shots at Douglas, which later killed him, and seriously injuring former girlfriend, Mone Dotson, 19, at 1623 Park Towne Ct. NE, according to testimony last week.

Dotson testified during trial that Phillips was the gunman who came into her apartment, shooting her four times before turning the gun on Douglas and shooting him multiple times.

The prosecution rested after Kruse’s testimony, and the defense had no witnesses.

The defense, in an opening statement, maintained Phillips wasn’t the shooter and that there is no physical evidence linking him to the shooting. Phillips’ attorney said the two eyewitnesses didn’t prove he was the shooter, there is no proof Phillips had a gun — which police didn’t recover — and the medical examiner can’t prove the gunshots led to Douglas’ death.

Closing arguments will be given Friday.

Kruse told the jury one gunshot injured Douglas’ left common carotid artery, which supplies blood to the head. The other gunshot was to the back of his neck at the seventh cervical vertebrae — vertebrae of the neck immediately below the skull. She said both areas were infected, along with a blood clot in the carotid artery that prevented blood flow to the brain.

When Douglas was treated for the gunshot wounds in December, the top of his skull was removed to relieve pressure from swelling, which is a serious condition, and without that procedure he would have died at that time, Kruse said. Kruse identified photos for the jury of the autopsy. She said the left side of the brain, which had signs of abscesses caused by infection, was larger because of swelling and infection. Abscesses in the brain indicate a serious injury, she said.

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There also was significant injury to the brain stem from swelling or bleeding, which is what led to the brain pressure and his death, Kruse said.

She also found two bullets in Douglas — one to the back of his left shoulder and one in his pelvis area.

The cause of death was from complications of remote gunshot wounds — meaning he survived but infections from the wounds caused his death, and the manner of death was homicide, Kruse said.

The infection started in the gunshot wounds and went to the brain, she said.

On cross-examination, Sara Smith, Phillips’ lawyer, tried to show that the infection may not have been from the gunshot wounds.

But Kruse, on redirect, said none of the other issues Douglas reportedly had before he died — bronchitis or a tooth infection — which she didn’t find, caused his death.

“The (gunshot) injuries sustained in December ultimately led to his death,” Kruse said.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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