A litany of health problems threatened a premature end to the life of Valerie Rita Mittelman.
But it was a single gunshot wound to the head that ultimately killed the 63-year-old El Dorado Hills woman on June 17, 2010.
El Dorado County jurors Tuesday learned that Valerie Mittelman suffered only one injury on the evening of her death.
“The injury to her head was a through-and-through gunshot wound,” testified forensic pathologist Mark Super.
Super, who was at the time employed by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office, performed Mittelman’s autopsy the day after her body was found by sheriff’s deputies.
On Tuesday, he was called to the witness stand by prosecutors to discuss his findings.
According to Super, Mittelman had no defensive wounds. It appeared, according to the doctor, that she died without a struggle.
But whether she knew it or not, Mittelman had been living on borrowed time.
During the autopsy, Super learned that Mittelman could have suffered fatal complications from liver failure at “any time.”
“To my eyes, her liver was at the end of its road,” he testified. “It’s about as far as it’s going to go before it fails.”
Likely damaged by years of heavy drinking, Super said Mittelman’s liver was “severely scarred” and was already showing signs of shutting down.
“Grossly, it doesn’t look like there’s any room for this liver to get worse,” he said.
In addition to liver failure, Mittelman also had a history of hepatitis C and hardened arteries, according to the doctor.
At the time of her autopsy, Mittelman had a blood-alcohol content of .195. Super found no evidence of drugs in her system, but she did test positive for caffeine and nicotine.
Despite Mittelman’s poor health, Super made it abundantly clear that the single gunshot wound was responsible for Mittelman’s death.
Mittelman’s ex-husband, Steven Howard Mittelman, 56, is charged with her first-degree murder.
Prosecutors contend the former couple had a drunken argument in the apartment they shared with Steven’s then-wife, Gail, on June 17, 2010, which resulted in Valerie’s death.
El Dorado County deputy district attorney Joe Alexander previously said that Steven and Valerie were arguing over the defendant’s budding relationship with a third woman, an old friend from Modesto.
Steven Mittelman initially reported Valerie’s death as an accidental suicide. But Alexander said his story has changed several times since his arrest.
Steven Mittelman has pleaded not guilty to Valerie’s slaying.