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DEE GOODIN • May 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The court-appointed attorney for an Elizabethton man charged with rape and murder in the death of a diminutive 22-year-old woman laid his cards on the table Monday.

Clifton Corker will defend Robert Miller, charged in the death of Krystal Gale Dubuque, 22, on the basis that Dubuque was accidentally suffocated during what Corker delicately described as “rough sex.” Although the jury was not seated until 5:20 Monday afternoon, Corker’s questions to potential jurors as well as comments made during a late afternoon pre-trial motion hearing clearly indicated the defense attorney’s strategy.

The first attempt at trying Miller for the crimes ended in mistrial on March 28, after Dr. Gretel Stephens, forensic pathologist, gave testimony that surprised not only Corker and Assistant District Attorney General Ken Baldwin but Criminal Judge Robert Cupp as well.

After declaring the mistrial, Cupp said, “When General Baldwin heard it, it was a surprise. Mr. Corker was taken aback ... I was taken aback.”

After releasing the jury for the day Monday, Dr. William McCormack took the witness stand. With more than 50 years experience in forensic pathology, McCormack testified as to how the rate of inflammation following an injury can determine the time of death.

McCormack stated the time of death was at the most two hours after Dubuque’s injuries. “Soon you’ll see (it was) less than that,” he told Corker. “... I think it’s less than an hour.”

According to McCormack, in addition to rectal and vaginal injuries, Dubuque’s “broad ligament,” which supports the female reproductive organs, and one of her ovaries were damaged. When Corker asked if McCormack would describe sexual intercourse that resulted in such injuries as “rough sex,” McCormack responded, “Yes I would and I can tell you my wife would. This was not a gentle seduction, but I don’t think you’re going to contend it was.”

Dubuque, who was about 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds, was reported missing on Feb. 15, 2004. Three days after her car was found partially in the Watauga River, Dubuque’s body was found 1,500 feet downstream from that location.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin this morning at 9 a.m.

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