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Miss. Responders Testify in Hot-Oil Murder Trial

First responders painted a horrific picture Monday of second- and third-degree burns that led to the death of Diamondhead, Miss., resident Sherman Sanders, whose wife is on trial here for allegedly pouring a sauce pan of scalding cooking oil over him as he slept.

A police officer and a firefighter who went to the Sanders home early on the morning of July 28, 2006, said they found the retired Navy veteran calm and coherent, even though he had suffered major burns to his head, face, arms, hands and upper body.

Sanders died in an Alabama hospital about a week later. The murder trial of his wife, Edna Mae Sanders, began Tuesday in Hancock County Circuit Court.

"Mr. Sanders was the most severely burned patient that I've ever had who was still alive," Diamondhead Fire Department and emergency medical technician Lt. Michael Munger testified. He said Sanders told him he had been sleeping and awoke to his wife pouring oil over him in bed.

Sanders kept repeating he didn't know why she did it, Munger said.

Sanders, 53, had been a yeoman in the Navy, a clerical rating. He had more recently worked at Stennis Space Center in a human resources position. He and his wife had reportedly been married only about a year.

Brandon Hendry, a former Hancock County deputy who now works for the state Forestry Commission, testified he was the first to arrive at the Sanders home at 2:18 a.m. that morning. He was responding to a 911 call about a man yelling for help and blowing the horn of a car at 894 Maili Way.

Hendry said he found Sanders in the driveway with the trunk of his car open, saying he was searching for medications. He was dressed in shorts, socks, slippers and no shirt, and had burned skin hanging from his arm and chest area, the first responder said.

Hendry said he escorted Sanders into the home, and the victim told him he had awakened while being attacked with scalding oil by his wife. There was no one else at the home when he arrived, Hendry said. On a living room end table, the deputy found a one-quart saucepan containing the remnants of boiled oil.

Sheriff's Investigator Ricky Fayard arrived at the home shortly after 3 a.m. Upon entering the house, he testified Tuesday, he noticed "a strange smell of burnt cooking oil." And he found more evidence, including a nearly-empty quart bottle of cooking oil in a cabinet, grease stains on the wall of a hallway to the master bedroom, and grease in the bed and on the headboard and wall.

Sanders was evacuated by helicopter to Alabama before dying. Edna Mae Sanders was indicted by a grand jury for committing murder under the "depraved heart" legal provisions. Evidence over why the attack may have occurred has not yet been introduced.

The trial is expected to be concluded this week. Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today at the Hancock County Governmental Complex on Longfellow Drive in Bay St. Louis.

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