Victim’s injuries ‘etched in my mind’: Trauma surgeon testifies at Hikoalok trial

Jury in Cambridge Bay man’s Ottawa murder trial hears from paramedics, police officers

Trauma surgeon Dr. Giuseppe Pagliarello (left), and Ottawa Police Service Det. Tim Nolan testify at the trial of Tyler Hikoalok in Ottawa on Thursday. Hikoalok is facing a first-degree murder charge for the 2018 death of Elisabeth Salm. (Courtroom sketches by Lauren Foster-MacLeod)

By Madalyn Howitt

The trauma surgeon who treated Elisabeth Salm before she died from severe injuries suffered in an attack in 2018, said her condition remains “etched” in his mind more than four years on.

Tyler Hikoalok, 22, originally from Cambridge Bay, faces a first-degree murder charge in Salm’s 2018 death in Ottawa. The 59-year-old was a librarian at the Christian Science Reading Room at 141 Laurier Ave. West in the city’s downtown.

Earlier this week, the jury heard testimony from Salm’s husband, Lyle Young, as well as colleague Janet Dudley who found Salm after the attack.

On Thursday, the jury learned more details of the extent of Salm’s injuries and what first responders observed at the scene.

Trauma surgeon Dr. Giuseppe Pagliarello was the attending physician at the intensive care unit at Ottawa Civic Hospital when Salm was brought there May 24, 2018, after undergoing emergency surgery to relieve extreme pressure on her brain.

Pagliarello testified that by the time Salm was brought to the ICU, she was already in critical condition.

He noted she was comatose and very seriously injured. Her face and eyes were “very badly swollen” and she was showing signs of brain swelling and a lack of oxygen to the brain.

The team put Salm on a ventilator because she wasn’t breathing on her own.

Due to the extent of her injuries, doctors had difficulty administering certain tests, such as checking Salm’s vision, Pagliarello said.

The prognosis for her survival was “dismal” due to the severity of the injuries, he said.

Salm died at 2:41 p.m. on May 25.

Elisabeth Salm, a librarian at the Christian Science Reading Room at 141 Laurier Ave. in Ottawa, was found severely injured inside the centre’s study room on May 24, 2018. Tyler Hikoalok, 22, faces a first-degree murder charge in her death. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

Photos of her facial injuries taken while she was in the ICU were shown to the jury.

Pagliarello said Salm’s condition that day “is etched in my mind.”

“Her injuries were particularly horrific,” he said.

Ottawa Police Service forensics Det. Tim Nolan testified evidence was collected from Salm for a sexual assault forensic exam, also known as a rape kit.

Multiple swabs were taken by Nolan and sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto, with a request to process the findings as soon as possible, he said.

Results of the analysis linked DNA from the sexual assault exam kit to Hikoalok, who was arrested May 27, two days after Salm’s death.

Ottawa police officers who responded to the crime scene also shared through their testimony what they saw that day.

Const. Anthony Carmo and Const. Samantha Raffa said they found what appeared to be blood on the inside door handle leading to the hallway outside the reading room soon after responding to the scene.

The trial will continue Friday with testimony from firefighters and paramedics who responded to the scene. The trial is scheduled to last for five weeks.

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