A former defense investigator who was scheduled to testify in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case Thursday was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound earlier in the day, authorities reported.
Paul Bynum, 39, a retired officer in the Hermosa Beach Police Department, was found in his Glendale home about 6 a.m. with a bullet wound to his head, according to Glendale police. Bynum, who had worked as an investigator for McMartin defense attorneys early in the course of the 3-year-old case, was expected to testify about animal bones he found buried at the preschool, prosecutors in the case said.
Superior Court Judge William Pounders told McMartin jurors that Bynum's death was "not due to any criminal cause." He further explained that Bynum's testimony "will be presented through other testimony and evidence."
Bynum had testified at the trial Wednesday without the jury present in a hearing held to determine what he would be allowed to say in front of the jurors. His testimony involved dead turtle shells he found buried at the Virginia McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach.
Prosecutors have alleged that the defendants slaughtered animals in view of their small victims to frighten them into silence. Ray Buckey, 29, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 60, are on trial on 100 counts of molestation and conspiracy to molest.
Chief prosecutor Lael Rubin declined to comment on the impact of Bynum's death on the case or to speculate whether his death was in any way related to the case.
Bynum's is the second death of a witness in the case that was filed in 1984. About a year ago, Judy Johnson, the mother who triggered the massive investigation by claiming Ray Buckey had molested her son, was found dead in her Manhattan Beach home of a liver disease.
Bynum, a former police lieutenant in Hermosa Beach, retired from the force on a medical pension. His widow, Vicki, is an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.