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Doctors Say Von Bulow’s Wife Bruised, Cut

May 4, 1985

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ In the first new development of the case, doctors say Martha ″Sunny″ von Bulow arrived at a hospital in a coma in 1980 with scratches and bruises on her body - injuries prosecutors say occurred in a struggle with her husband, Claus, as he tried to murder her.

Mrs. von Bulow had about a half-dozen scratches on her right leg, a scratch on her left cheek, a bruise on her right cheek, a cut on her lower lip and a swollen right wrist, Dr. Jeremy R. Worthington, a neurologist at Newport Hospital, testified Friday.

The testimony was part of a new state strategy to try to prove that Mrs. von Bulow struggled with her husband before he allegedly injected her with insulin, sending her into a coma that doctors say is permanent.

Prosecutors say a coma a year earlier was caused by a similar injection.

Von Bulow, 58, is being tried again on two attempted-murder charges after the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned his 1982 convictions last year on state constitutional grounds. The trial resumes Monday.

The theory of a struggle is new to the state’s case, although the prosecutor at the first trial said he knew about the evidence but decided against using it.

The 6- to 8-inch leg cuts probably were not caused during the rush to the hospital, Worthington said under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Henry Gemma.

But Superior Court Judge Corinne P. Grande refused to allow Worthington to answer Gemma’s questions on whether the injuries were caused by a struggle.

Worthington has said he believes the cuts and bruises were inflicted during a struggle, prosecutors say, and that testimony was expected to be a crucial part of the state’s effort to prove the struggle theory.

Gemma said later that he would try to question Worthington again Monday.

Earlier, Dr. Ralph P. Earp said he also examined Mrs. von Bulow on Dec. 22, 1980, the day after she was rushed to the hospital from Clarendon Court, the family’s mansion on ″Millionaires’ Row.″

Earp said he, too, noticed cuts and scrapes on her face and wrist. He called Worthington when Mrs. von Bulow’s neurological condition deteriorated.

Gemma indicated that Earp was told by Mrs. von Bulow’s physician, Dr. Janice Gailitis, that she had a history of suicide attempts. That information came to Ms. Gailitis from von Bulow, according to Earp.

Earp, however, said there was no indication her coma was caused by a suicide attempt.

The facial scrape was first noticed by Dr. Gerhard C. Meier the day she was brought to the hospital.But Meier, now the hospital’s chief of medicine, said he did not mention the injury in records or in the first trial.

″Whatever it was, it was not significant enough for you to include it in your medical records, is that right?″ asked defense attorney Thomas P. Puccio.

″Counsel, when it is the matter of a life of a patient, we may forget to record certain details,″ Meier responded.

Under direct examination by Gemma, Meier said Mrs. von Bulow’s extremely low body temperature could have prevented such injuries from showing clearly.

The luxurious pink-marble bathroom at Clarendon Court where Mrs. von Bulow was found unconscious was extremely cold, causing hypothermia, according to prosecution witnesses.

Meier also said that although he examined Mrs. von Bulow for needle marks, a needle the size the state contends von Bulow used in the alleged murder attempt could go undetected to the naked eye.

The prosecution says an insulin-encrusted needle found in a black bag at Clarendon Court was used by von Bulow in the attack. The defense disputes ownership of the bag and the private test indicating that the needle contained insulin.

Prosecutors say the Danish-born socialite wanted his heiress wife dead so he could inherit $14 million of her $75 million utilities fortune and be free to marry his mistress.

The defense maintains that Mrs. von Bulow caused her own comas by abusing alcohol, drugs and sweets, aggravating a low-blood-sugar condition.

Von Bulow faces 40 years in prison if convicted on both counts.

Tests conducted at Newport Hospital after the second coma show that Mrs. von Bulow’s blood contained traces of amobarbital, a barbiturate, and alcohol, according to Meier.

The state says amobarbital also was found on the black bag needle.

Update hourly