It's the second week of the high profile Paul Novak murder trial in Sullivan County. Novak is accused of murdering his wife and then setting their Narrowsburg home on fire to cover up the crime. Our Eva McKend has more on the testimony of the fire investigator.
MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- When the Sullivan County Bureau of Fire and the Narrowsburg Fire Department found Catherine Novak's remains, fire investigator Art Hawker said there was something unusual about the body. She wasn't defensively curled up nor did she look like she was trying to escape. Investigators found Novak face up, and on her back.
"There is no universal position for a fire death, but generally people that die in bed, usually they are on their back because the carbon monoxide or something like that, but to be totally spread did not appear to be consistent with a fire death," said Hawker.
Hawker said he's always had his suspicions about that deadly December night five years ago. He suspects Catherine Novak was killed before the fire and then dragged by her arms or feet to where she was discovered.
Hawker said many accidental causes were ruled out, including the pellet stove, which defense attorney Gary Greenwald floated as a potential cause during opening arguments.
Hawker said, "Whether it was an accidental cause or an intentional act, we were just not able to get to that level of determination."
Greenwald asked Hawker if he was so convinced that it was a homicide, why didn't he do more. Greenwald says there was never a paper trail that indicated that suspicion, nor did it ever appear in any report. Hawker confirmed he never filed any sort of report.
For the prosecution, Steve Lungen said it wasn't Hawker's place to do that at the time, but rather the role of the police. Greenwald also suggested the integrity of the crime scene was compromised when officials started moving debris before the body was found and identified, a notion Hawker struck down.
"We took the pieces of the structures that were basically still intact, took them out, moved them off to the side. Once they were out of the way, we were able to put a ladder in and then what we did with respect to debris removal was to hand shovel it into the bucket," Hawker said.
Ultimately when asked if he knew with certainty that Paul Novak was responsible for Catherine Novak's death, Art Hawker said no.