A Chanceford Township man who told police his wife drowned when the ATV they were riding went into a creek in June 2012 is now accused of killing her, in part for the $1.7 million in life-insurance policies he had on her.
Joseph Bernard Fitzpatrick III, 41, of 2288 Old Forge Road, was arraigned Thursday morning by District Judge John H. Fishel on a charge of criminal homicide, the judge confirmed. Fitzpatrick was denied bail.
State police allege he "assaulted, strangled and drowned" Annemarie Fitzpatrick, then made up a story about an ATV crash.
Annemarie Fitzpatrick left messages to be found in the event of her death, including an email she sent to herself the day she died with the subject line, "if something happens to me," charging documents state.
According to those documents, the body of that email states:
"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."
She also left a signed, handwritten note at her workplace in her daily planner hours before her death that stated, "06/06/12. If something happens to me -- JOE," according to documents.
Defense attorney Chris Ferro, who represents Joseph Fitzpatrick, declined comment Thursday afternoon.
The arrest is the culmination of a 21-month investigation into the death of 43-year-old Annemarie Fitzpatrick, according to state police.
The background: The Fitzpatricks were belatedly celebrating their wedding anniversary about 8:30 p.m. June 6, 2012, by riding an ATV on their property, police said at the time.
Joseph Fitzpatrick told police at the time that his wife was driving the ATV and he was on the back of it when it went over a 6-foot embankment and into the north branch of Muddy Creek, where she drowned.
Her death initially was ruled accidental by the York County Coroner's Office, but very quickly the manner was changed to "pending," based on information the coroner's office was receiving, York County Coroner Pam Gay said Thursday.
An autopsy was performed on Annemarie Fitzpatrick's body June 9, 2012, Gay said.
Manner of death: The cause of the victim's death remains drowning, but the manner of her death has been changed to homicide, Gay said.
Annemarie Fitzpatrick suffered injuries including multiple cuts and bruises on her head, neck, torso, buttocks, arms, legs and back, police said. She also suffered a fractured rib, police said.
She had no traces of alcohol or drugs in her blood at the time of her death, according to documents.
Joseph Fitzpatrick suffered no visible injuries in the crash and refused treatment at the scene, police said.
Alleged affair: State police investigators gained access to Joseph Fitzpatrick's email account, where they found emails revealing he was involved in an extramarital affair, according to charging documents.
"In these communications Joe Fitzpatrick made statements indicating he is going to leave his wife Annemarie to have a future with his love interest," documents state.
Investigators spoke with his mistress, who told them Annemarie had learned of the affair around May 30, 2012 -- the couple's wedding anniversary, police said.
"Joe told (his mistress) Annemarie threatened Joe by saying she would probably remarry and there could be another man raising their ... children," documents state.
Phone, computer records: The night Annemarie Fitzpatrick died, Joseph Fitzpatrick called his mistress and told her there had been an accident, according to police, who said he made that phone call before police even arrived at the "accident" scene.
The next day, he told his mistress to delete messages between the two of them, and warned her investigators might try to speak with her, according to police.
Troopers examining Joseph Fitzpatrick's computer learned that five days before Annemarie Fitzpatrick died, her husband used Google to search for "life insurance review during contestibility period," and that the day before the death he searched for the phrase, "polygraph legal in which states," documents allege.
'Crash' examined: A state trooper who is a certified accident reconstructionist reviewed the circumstances of how Joseph Fitzpatrick said the ATV accident happened and determined Joseph Fitzpatrick and his wife should have suffered similar injuries, according to charging documents; the trooper could find "no reasonable way to explain how Annemarie was injured and Joe was not."
Family 'strong': Rob McCord, speaking on behalf of Annemarie Fitzpatrick's family, said the family has fully cooperated with the police investigation into her death.
"The family has experienced the full range of emotions," he said. "They are a strong, faith-filled family that will continue to rely on each other."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.