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Murder theory shared

August 12, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Prosecution witnesses testified Wednesday that they believe Clyde Birdsall killed his wife in the shower, washed most of the blood down the drain, then hid the body in a folded-up sofa bed.

Two scratch marks in the concrete driveway could have been made by Birdsall dragging the sofa to his van, said Martinsburg Police Detective Timothy Catlett, an investigator with the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.

The scratch marks were the same width as the legs of the sofa, Catlett testified.

Clyde Birdsall's first-degree murder trial is expected to continue today in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Erika Birdsall's body was found on March 7, 1997, in the sofa bed behind the H-Mart convenience store by a man walking by.

Erika Birdsall died after being stabbed 13 times by a knife with at least a 71/2-inch long blade, according to Dr. Jack Frost, state medical examiner.

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Frost said the stab wounds should have caused extensive blood loss. He said the fact that a large amount of blood was not found in her home could be explained if she had been slain in the bathtub and the blood was washed down the drain.

Blood was found on the shower curtains, Catlett said. Some blood also was found on floor tiles near the bathroom door and on the wood trim on the wall and door in the hallway outside the bathroom that leads to the garage, he testified.

Frost said he believes Erika Birdsall had been dead for between 24 and 48 hours when her body was found.

Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said police believe Erika Birdsall died on March 6, 1997.

South Berkeley Pharmacy employee Judy Combs testified Wednesday morning that she saw Clyde Birdsall walk into the store on the morning of March 6.

Combs said she knew him because he was a longtime customer who frequently stopped to get his wife's medications. Erika Birdsall had multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair to get around.

Instead of picking up medication for his wife, he bought batteries for his two hearing aids, Combs said.

Something else drew her attention to him that morning, Combs said.

"He had blood on his shirt and hands. It looked like splattered blood all over his shirt and over his hands," Combs said.

Combs said Clyde Birdsall also smelled of alcohol, but that was not unusual for him.

He paid for the batteries and she gave him his change. As soon as he left the pharmacy, she immediately washed her hands, Combs said.

C.R. Lane, a firearm and tool mark examiner with the West Virginia State Police crime lab, said he examined a section of carpet seized from the Birdsall home. He said indentations in the carpet fibers matched the bottom of the sofa.

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