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Analysts testify about DNA, blood tests on items in Jacksonville death penalty case

On Tuesday, the court heard from the analyst who tested multiple items for blood and DNA, including a handgun, bras, a rain suit, and electric saw.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The first phase of the death penalty trial of a Jacksonville man accused of killing his pregnant niece is drawing toward a close.  Johnathan Quiles is charged with impregnating and murdering his 16-year-old niece, Iyana Sawyer, in 2018.  

The court hopes to begin closing arguments Wednesday. Other young relatives of Quiles who say they were sexually abused by him are expected to testify soon.  

On Tuesday, the court heard from the analyst who tested multiple items from the case for blood and DNA. This included a handgun, bras, a rain suit and an electric saw.  

Nicholas Coutu with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement testified no blood was found on any of these items. He said many of the items tested did not contain enough DNA to get information. He was asked in court about not finding DNA on the rain suit, which, prosecutors showed jurors surveillance video of Quiles wearing.

“Some of the rain could potentially wash away some of the chemical indications," Coutu testified. 

"It might either not be blood or if it was blood it was deluded or somehow degraded to the point that it was under our sensitivity thresholds for detection." 

Investigators found items prosecutors believe belonged to Sawyer at an industrial debris landfill on Jacksonville's Westside. Her body was never found, but investigators did locate what they say are underwear and textbooks belonging to Sawyer, as well as receipts from the automotive junkyard where Quiles worked. Prosecutors say Quiles murdered Sawyer at the junkyard then put her body in a dumpster that was hauled off to the landfill. 

The morning started with testimony from an analyst with Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Ryan Nestor, who analyzed and built maps out of Google data that pinged Quiles's and Sawyer's cell phone locations. He testified Sawyer made two calls from the Arlington area, where Terry Parker High School is located, around 7:00 a.m., the morning she disappeared on December 19, 2018. The defense said those calls were to her grandmother.

Nestor testified Quiles's phone's Google data shows him going multiple places around Jacksonville the day Sawyer disappeared and the following day. He says the data shows he went from his job at Ace Pick A Part to a shopping area near the airport. Nestor testified Quiles searched how to get to the industrial supplies company Fastenal, which the defense argues Quiles may have been going to for his job. Shortly after that, Nestor testified the phone could not be tracked anymore, which either meant it was turned off or the location data was deleted.

The next day, Nestor says Quiles's phone was in north Jacksonville by the Budweiser plant, a gun range on Beach Boulevard and Trout River Drive, the street he lived on. 

First Coast News will continue to be in the courtroom to cover the trial gavel to gavel.

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