Medical Examiner: Victim lived hours after being strangled

Crispin Harmel

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Testimony continued Thursday in the capital murder trial of Crispin Harmel. Harmel is accused of aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and capital murder in the death of 27-year-old Jessika Kalaher.

“Her death came two to three hours after she was strangled,” testified the medical examiner.

In September 2009, surveillance video captured the two walking out of Walmart after Kalaher bought dog food. Cedar Park detectives believe Harmel drove Kalaher to another location and strangled her. 40 minutes later, Kalaher’s car returned to the Walmart parking lot. Video shows Harmel going back to his truck.

Witnesses then told police they saw Jessika get out of her car and walk around it. She then got back in. Witnesses said she was acting in a strange manner.

Now, the medical examiner has testified she died from heat stroke and a mental breakdown brought on from strangulation. He said the oxygen being cut off from the brain can make a person act irrationally.

“A lack of oxygen can bring on confusion, an altered mental state. It’s a effect from the assault – a severe assault to the body that can cause somebody severe mental stress and mental reaction,” said Dr. David Dolinak, Travis County medical examiner. “People can become confused, disoriented. They are trying to block out the experience and they can block out reality. And if they do that, they might not be able to fend for themselves and react to situation.”

Witnesses told detectives they saw Jessika get back into her car with the windows rolled up on a 95 degree day. The medical examiner said heat stroke eventually killed her.

Kalaher’s family and friends wore buttons with her picture on it, draped in green ribbons. Green, they say, was Jessika’s favorite color.

Autopsy photos were shown in today’s testimony, as well. They indicated a violent struggle took place between Kalaher and her attacker, with bruises all over her body, and a six inch mark across her neck from the strangulation.

The defense maintains Cedar Park police botched the case, losing crime scene photos and not bagging the victim’s hands or feet to secure DNA or other evidence.

Harmel claims he knew Kalaher and that the two had consensual sex. Her friends claim she did not know him. Some evidence suggests he told her he had a stun gun to convince her to comply.

Testimony continues through this week. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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