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The Lawrence County courthouse

A forensic pathologist called by the defense attorney of Regis Brown testified Thursday about the stages of decomposition and growth of algae on a deceased man’s remains.

Dr. Eric Vey, was called to the witness stand to give his analysis of an autopsy report from 30 years ago of Bryce Kenneth Tompkins, 54, whose body was found in the Neshannock Creek on Dec. 26, 1988. His family reported him missing a month before.

A confession by Regis Brown, 61, of Erie County, formerly of New Castle, prompted homicide and other charges against him in the shooting death of Tompkins 30 years ago. Brown is standing trial this week in the courtroom of Lawrence County Common Pleas President Judge Dominick Motto.

A recorded confession by Brown was played for the jury Thursday afternoon.

It followed testimony by Vey, who analyzed an autopsy report done in Allegheny County by a different medical examiner.

Based upon various factors including condition of the body, weather factors, and submersion in the water, Vey estimated that Tompkins when he was found had been dead anywhere from 21 to 28 days or longer, possibly even in late November that year.

Vey was called by Lawrence County Public Defender Larry Keith, who is representing Brown. The case is being prosecuted by assistant district attorney Jonathan Miller.

Keith said it was unknown yet Thursday afternoon whether Brown intends to take the witness stand.

Brown already is serving a life sentence in prison for having confessed and pleaded guilty to the killings of his wife and stepdaughter in Erie County in 2018.

Whether or not he is convicted in Tompkins’ death, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in a state correctional institution.

He currently is in the Lawrence County jail for his trial. He was moved here from the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill for the proceedings.

Miller and Keith both said they expect to wrap up testimony on Friday. The case could go to closing arguments and jury deliberation Friday afternoon or Monday morning.

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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