Death in a recliner chair: Man’s sores ‘unlikely to develop over minutes or hours’

A man’s infected sores that lead to his death were likely to have developed over “a great deal longer than six hours”, a pathologist told a jury at the manslaughter trial of his wife.

“There was dirt encrusted onto the skin. There were long, unkempt nails,” Dr Joanna Glengarry said about Lanitola Epenisa’s body.

The Herald has chosen not to publish the most graphic details of evidence presented at the High Court in Auckland today.

The father of two and previous stone wall builder was found dead, his skin fused to a recliner chair by ambulance staff at a home in Māngere in October 2016.

“There was evidence of previous strokes in three regions of the brain, both left and right sides,” said Glengarry.

He died from sepsis caused by infected pressure sores, or ulcers, on his body from immobility. Some were as large as 5cm.

“Pressure injury can start and come on quite quickly and I would agree this has taken longer than, more than, six hours,” said Glengarry.

“Given the presence of multiple stage three or four ulcers, I would expect it to take a great deal longer than six hours.

“Mr Epenisa had multiple risk factors due to his previous strokes, diabetes, former obesity and possible malnutrition.”

Malia Li has denied causing her husband’s death through “gross negligence”.

Her lawyer Mark Ryan said an expert witness will provide evidence that Epenisa’s pressure sores were very recent, and Li did not fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the sores from developing or worsening.

It’s the second week in her trial before Justice Edwin Wylie.

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