The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

April 7, 2010

Oklahoma: Pathologist says girl’s throat might have been cut

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — A 7-year-old girl who was found dead in Oklahoma near the body of her suspected kidnapper likely died after her throat was cut, an independent pathologist said Wednesday, the same day the child’s funeral attracted hundreds of mourners.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office released autopsy reports for Aja Johnson and her stepfather and alleged abductor, Lester Hobbs, after an open records request by The Associated Press. Their bodies were discovered last week, more than two months after both disappeared and Johnson’s mother was found dead in Hobbs’ mobile home.

The reports list the cause and manner of death as “pending,” but Dr. William Manion, a forensic pathologist and deputy medical examiner in New Jersey, said Aja’s autopsy report indicates she was likely cut repeatedly in her neck. He said the report for Hobbs showed no potentially lethal injuries such as a gunshot wound.

Manion examined the reports at the AP’s request. Toxicology tests haven’t been released.

The state Medical Examiner’s office declined to comment on details of the reports, but agency spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said the advanced decomposition would make it challenging to pinpoint when the two died. Messages left after-hours for Norman police and the medical examiner about Manion’s findings weren’t returned.

The bodies of Aja and Hobbs were found last week in a rural part of Norman, along with the missing car that belonged to the girl’s mother, Tonya Hobbs. She was found dead Jan. 24 inside Lester Hobbs’ motor home in Geronimo, about 100 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

Lester Hobbs’ body was found inside the car while the girl’s body was nearby, authorities have said.

Ballard confirmed Wednesday that ligatures, which could have been used to tie up the girl, were found in the car. A chief medical examiner’s investigator told The Oklahoman newspaper that a kitchen knife was found in the vehicle, but a Norman police spokeswoman wouldn’t confirm the information.

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