Springettsbury Township, Pa. – York County inmate Joseph Fitzpatrick had about four hours of freedom on Wednesday. He was convicted of the murder of his wife in May, then acquitted by a judge a few weeks ago.
On Wednesday, the judge allowed him to post bail and leave prison at about 1:30. The state is appealing the judge’s ruling to the PA Superior Court, and later in the afternoon, the court ordered Fitzpatrick to return to prison.
“It’s largely unprecedented, the situation we’re dealing with,” says Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Chris Ferro. “I think that’s why some of the issues are so complex, there’s not a lot of precedent to tell us what to do.”
Fitzpatrick was accused of killing his wife, Annemarie Fitzpatrick, in 2012 and attempting to cover it up. He said they had been in an ATV accident on their property in Chanceford township, and his wife drowned in their creek.
In the May trial, prosecutors said Fitzpatrick’s story about the crash changed. They said he disposed of his wife’s cell phone; and they found a note she had left that said “If anything happens to me – Joe.” Fitzpatrick was having an affair, and the DA said he stood to gain $1.7 million in life insurance on his wife.
The jury found Fitzpatrick guilty. A few months later Judge Richard Renn overturned the decision on appeal. He said the evidence showed motive and “perhaps specific intent to kill.” But it didn’t prove Fitzpatrick did it.
“I’m not a lawyer, but if he’s right, than the prosecution didn’t do a very good job and that’s a failing on their part,” says Richard Thompson, a neighbor in Chanceford township.
The Commonwealth is appealing that ruling. Fitzpatrick voluntarily turned himself back in under court order at about 5:20 Wednesday night. The DA’s office says he will remain behind bars without bail until there is a decision in the appeal.
“I don’t think anybody would be easy, feel easy about it,” says Thompson on Fitzpatrick’s possible future release. “I don’t think there’s any threat, but he can stay on his side of the road and I’ll stay on my side of the road.”