SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The medical examiner who responded to Leslie Neulander’s death and quickly ruled it an accident, but changed his mind six months later, got a grilling from the defense attorney working to get former Dr. Robert Neulander off of a charge of murder.
Dr. Robert Stoppacher, who served as the medical examiner from 2009 through 2019, spent more than three hours on the witness stand Friday in Onondaga County Court.
“That injury pattern, coupled with the fact that there was significant amount of blood at the headboard, suggested to me, that there was an injury that occurred outside the shower and likely around the headboard of the bed.”Dr. Robert Stoppacher, Former Onondaga County Medical Examiner
Dr. Stoppacher says evidence gathered by police after his initial medical exam of Leslie’s body, along with an unchanged interpretation of her injuries, inspired him to update her “manner of death” from accident to homicide.
In cross-examination, Neulander Defense Attorney Jonathon Bach insinuated to the jury that Stoppacher may have changed the death certificate based on pressure from the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office.
Defense: “You understand that if they wanted to bring a criminal case, it would be hard to do it if the chief medical examiner of Onondaga County said that this was an accident and not a homicide. Correct?”
(Question not answered as prosecution
Defense: “You amended your report two days after the District Attorney’s Office asked you to testify in a grand jury. Correct?”
Dr. Stoppacher: “I believe that was the timeframe. Yes.”
The former medical examiner reaffirmed his findings that Leslie died three to six hours before his examination at 10am that day in September of 2012, claiming her time of death would have been between 4:15am and 7:15am, more than an hour before Leslie’s daughter called 911.
Stoppacher now runs a private practice and teaches his science at Upstate Medical University.