Prosecutors tie California man's DNA to Michigan murder victim

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2011 10:23 PM
Prosecutors tie California man's DNA to Michigan murder victim

By Ned Randolph

PONTIAC, Mich (Reuters) - Prosecutors tied a California man by DNA to the victim of a grisly murder on Monday in a trial where defense attorneys were expected to suggest the wounds were similar to those caused for sexual gratification at a suburban Detroit torture chamber.

Robert Nowak, 51, is accused of murder and criminal sexual conduct in the death of Troy Moross, 26, who was found beaten, castrated and sodomized in February 2001 behind a machine shop in the northern Detroit suburb of Madison Heights.

Nowak sometimes worked, and lived at, the machine shop, which was owned by his father. Prosecutors have sought to portray him as a violent man with numerous legal run-ins who had beaten and raped a former girlfriend in 1999.

Moross' murder went unresolved for eight years until Nowak was arrested for larceny in Riverside, California.

A DNA swab taken from Nowak after his arrest matched semen found on Moross' body that had been logged into an FBI national database, Heather Vitta, a forensics investigator with the Michigan State Police, testified on Monday.

Other DNA found at the scene such as a cigarette butt and DNA from Moross' fingernails did not match Nowak, but were from two other people, Vitta said.

Defense attorneys have conceded that Nowak and Moross may have had sex, but have sought to raise the possibility that the cuts on Moross' body were similar to rituals investigated by federal immigration agents in a separate case.

Federal investigators had asked the Oakland County medical examiner if there was a connection between the Moross killing and another killing and castration that may have been linked to a home in Rochester Hills where a sexual torture chamber was found.

Moross had been sodomized by a foreign object, castrated with a razor sharp blade, and cut in numerous places around his face, neck and hands.

Dr. Kanu Virani, deputy chief of the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office, testified on Monday that there were similarities, but Moross died from blunt force trauma. The bodily desecration came later.

"He had lost very little blood," Virani said. "During the cutting the procedures, the heart was not beating. He was already dead or near death."

Larry Kaluzny, a defense attorney for Nowak, said he planned to call a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent to testify in the case.

(Editing by David Bailey and Greg McCune)