In the second week of a sanity trial for admitted murderer Bryan Chang, 33, jurors heard testimony from the doctor who performed the autopsy on his mother, a computer expert who gathered email evidence, and an old college friend of the defendant, on October 27.
Dr. Bethann Schaber told the jury that she was called to a home in Solana Beach where the body of Sherry Chu Chang, 56, was found in January of 2010.
The doctor said she observed most of the deceased woman in a downstairs bathroom. Although Dr. Schaber observed some blood pooled under the body, she said “the majority of the blood was upstairs, on the carpeting.” Attorneys agree that a hammer was used to kill the woman.
The doctor described the grim details of the beating death for the jury and gave her conclusion that blunt force injury to the head caused Sherry Chang’s death. Responding to an attorney’s question, Dr. Schaber confirmed, “Yes, she would have become unconscious.” But the doctor could not determine a precise amount of time; she said the death could have taken several hours or it could have taken just minutes.
The jury was shown photos of the refrigerator where some parts of the woman were found. The doctor said Sherry Chang’s right arm had been cut off or amputated after death. “It was in a bag in the refrigerator.” Also found in the fridge: “There was a small, re-sealable plastic bag, with a skull fragment.”
Some jurors stared incredulously at the defendant during this hour of testimony.
Sherry was discovered dead in her home in Solana Beach on January 25, 2010; she reportedly last phoned her husband on Saturday January 23, telling him that she was waiting for her son at his apartment in Los Angeles.
Jurors also heard from a computer expert who read aloud some of the emails she recovered from computers that belonged to Bryan Chang and his mother. For an hour, the expert read emails to the jury; Sherry expressed love and support for her son, but also bewilderment and dismay at his spending and lack of job. The emails from Bryan often contained urgent requests and explanations of his latest ambitions.
The public recitation of these messages seemed to affect the usually stoic defendant, who fidgeted at the defense table, pushed at his glasses, and clasped and unclasped his hands near his mouth.
In a series of emails sent by Sherry two months before her death, in November 2009, she told her son that the bank informed her he had overdrawn his account, and she was dismayed that he had withdrawn $4000 in a ten-day period. She informed Bryan it was her goal to pay $4000 per month for all his expenses, to include the rent on his Santa Monica apartment. Sherry told her then-28-year-old son that it was a “serious matter” and to “please control your spending.”
In his emails, Bryan pestered his mother to put his name on the utility bills for the Solana Beach home where she lived, but his mom expressed wonder at that request and asked his reasoning. Bryan replied that it was so he could “get a new start.” He seemed to focus on that goal and ignored her protests over his spending.
A man named Chauncey Tse testified that he was an old college pal of Bryan’s from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, and he looked up Bryan when he moved to the West Coast in 2005. “We hung out several times,” Tse said. Then he lost touch with Bryan; he said he could not connect by phone because Bryan’s voicemail was always full. They ran into each other by accident one day, and Tse was surprised at the change in Bryan: “He wasn’t shaving” and he described Chang as “scraggly, not very well put together.”
Tse offered to take Bryan out to lunch at that impromptu meeting, and then while driving he noticed Bryan was not “engaged” in conversation; then Tse became alarmed when he saw Chang clenching his teeth and fists; Tse said he offered to drive Bryan to hospital. Tse guessed that last incident was sometime between 2007 and 2009.
This murder-sanity-trial began on October 21, 2014 and continues in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.