Pennsylvania high court to hear appeal in drowning case


YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s highest court will hear the appeal of a York County man serving life in prison for killing his wife and staging an ATV accident to collect $1.7 million from life insurance policies.

The state Supreme Court will determine whether a county judge improperly admitted hearsay evidence at the trial of Joseph B. Fitzpatrick III.

Authorities say Fitzpatrick drowned his wife Annemarie in a creek at their Chanceford Township home in June 2012. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015.

Fitzpatrick, 46, claims the jury was prejudiced because a note and email from his wife were allowed as evidence.

Annemarie’s death initially was ruled an accidental drowning, but prosecutors said her co-workers discovered a handwritten note in her daily planner that read, “If something happens to me – JOE.”

In an email sent from her work account to her personal account on the day she died, Annemarie wrote, “Joe and I are having marital problems. Last night we almost had an accident where a huge log fell on me. Joe was on the pile with the log and had me untying a tarp directly below.”

Authorities said Fitzpatrick wanted out of his marriage because he was having an extramarital relationship with another woman. They said the browsing history of his work computer showed he had searched for “life insurance review during contestability period” and “polygraph legal in which states.”

They said Annemarie suffered at least 25 injuries, including a fractured rib and multiple bruises and abrasions to her neck, head and body, while Fitzpatrick had no visible injuries from the ATV accident and refused medical treatment.

Superior Court last year affirmed the sentence, ruling that Annemarie’s note was admissible but her email was not. The court opinioned that the trial judge erroneously admitted the email into evidence but added that “the admission was harmless error in light of the overwhelming evidence.”

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