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A Felton-area man whose first-degree murder conviction in the drowning death of his wife was overturned will soon be free after a York County judge set his bail at $500,000 during a hearing on Tuesday.

Joseph Fitzpatrick III will have no problem posting bail, and his release is pending, said defense attorney Chris Ferro.

But there are logistical issues that must be overcome.

Fitzpatrick, 42, is being held at the Camp Hill state correctional institution, and Ferro is trying to have the bail posted so Fitzpatrick doesn't have to return to the state prison.

"We are working on those issues as we speak," said Ferro after the hearing.

York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn earlier this month issued the acquittal after Ferro argued prosecutors failed to prove Annemarie Fitzpatrick's death was unlawful. The York County District Attorney's Office is appealing the acquittal through the state Superior Court.

Hearing: During the hearing, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker at first argued Renn no longer has jurisdiction to rule on the release request because acquittal is now on appeal. He also argued against issuing bail because Renn's judgment of acquittal isn't final until all appeals have been exhausted and because Fitzpatrick's conviction came with a life sentence.

Renn disagreed with both of Barker's arguments.

Both Ferro and Renn, in his ruling, noted Fitzpatrick never attempted to flee the area during the 21-month state police investigation into Annemarie Fitzpatrick's death, even through search warrants were served at the Fitzpatricks' property where she died.

"He'd known for quite a number of months," Renn said.

During questioning, Fitzpatrick, who lived in York County almost his entire life, said he intends to live in the home he once shared with Annemarie Fitzpatrick and plans to get a job.

Release: Though Fitzpatrick will make bail and will be released from prison, his freedom comes with some added provisions Renn set. Fitzpatrick will be on supervised release, which requires him to check in with probation officers once a week; he can't travel out of the county without written permission, and he had to surrender his passport.

Ferro handed over Fitzpatrick's passport to Renn during the hearing.

Fitzpatrick was thankful and pleased with the ruling, Ferro said.

"I know he's relieved. I guess that's an understatement," Ferro said, adding Fitzpatrick is excited to see his two children - girls aged 11 and 14. "An innocent man is going home."

The case: A jury on May 13 found Fitzpatrick guilty of murdering 43-year-old Annemarie Fitzpatrick.

Prosecutors told jurors he drowned her in a portion of Muddy Creek that runs along the edge of the couple's 30-acre property in Chanceford Township on June 6, 2012, and that he staged the scene to make it appear as if they were riding their ATV when it crashed into the creek.

In explaining his decision to grant the judgment of acquittal, Renn wrote that jurors could not have determined Annemarie Fitzpatrick's death was unlawful without speculating.

Prosecutors used circumstantial evidence to prove their case, including notes left by Annemarie immediately prior to her death that implicate Fitzpatrick; the fact that he was involved in an emotional affair with another woman; and the $1.7 million in life insurance Fitzpatrick would receive if his wife died.

Barker couldn't be located after the hearing for comment.

- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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