Under the Hat: 11-063 - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: 11-063

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To the forensic staff at the courthouse, she was 11-063, the 63rd autopsy performed in 2011.  To her friends and family, she was Nikkia Sawyer, a tall young black woman with a troubled life that came to a violent end. 

  James Duncan is on trial this week, charged with stabbing or cutting Sawyer some 60 times.

 She was found bound and gagged on her bed, her ankles and wrists tied with bedding and an electrical cord.  Like the crime, the testimony has been brutal as each wound is explained in detail, including the 19 cuts to her face all done while she was still alive.

  Later family members would listen as a state police scientist would talk about how many different DNA samples were found on her body and in her bedding. 

 Her father testified to Nikkia's battle with mental illness, how sometimes she would have to remove or break objects of a certain color, how she would act out, sometimes violently, once waking up in the car and hitting her father in the head with her purse. He had to suddenly pull over to keep from crashing. 

 But Nikkia also had dreams, of one day going to medical school. When she stayed on her medications she made progress toward that goal.  That dream also came to a violent end on that Father's Day weekend in 2011. 

 Despite the sordid details coming to light in court this week, Nikkia Sawyer is not on trial. 

 James Duncan is and it will be up to the jury to decide if he is the monster prosecutors believe he is. 

 Beyond the headlines and lead newscast stories is the life of a young woman, deeply flawed but trying to do better until that was taken away from her.  

 That makes her more than Case Number 11-063.

 That makes her human. 

 

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