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Autopsy doctor defends not assigning cause of death for Somvilai

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Dr. Ross Reichard, on witness stand, testifies about the autopsy of Erin Somvilai during the Erik Sackett murder trial

The defense in the Erik Sackett murder trial has been busy arguing that a La Crosse woman’s death was not murder. 

A Rochester doctor who performed the autopsy on Erin Somvilai spent much of Wednesday on the witness stand at the Sackett trial. 

Dr. Ross Reichard of Mayo did not declare a definite cause of death, but ruled that Somvilai died from ‘homicidal violence.’ 

“I feel like this is not natural, not accident, not self-inflicted, but I don’t have a specific mechanism or explanation that I can determine how she died based on the autopsy and investigative information I have,” said Reichard.

Attorney Christopher Zachar told Reichard of many signs that Somvilai was suicidal, such as text messages, and statements she made to friends and relatives before going missing in June of 2018.

Reichard says much of that information was not given to him when he was trying to determine a cause of death.

Sackett is accused of killing Somvilai, and putting her body in a Vernon County lake. 

Somvilai’s body was found on the lake’s surface two weeks after her disappearance, attached to two heavy concrete blocks by ropes.

Zachar says Somvilai could have tied the blocks to herself before going into the water.

He also argues that La Crosse police were quick to treat a missing person case as a possible murder, leading to charges against an innocent man.                

The Sackett trial began on Monday, and could continue through the end of next week.  

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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