Felton-area wife killer denied $500K life insurance payout
Convicted Felton-area wife killer Joseph Fitzpatrick III can't collect on his victim's $500,000 life-insurance policy, a federal judge has ordered.
Instead, the money must go to the couple's two teenage daughters, according to U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III.
"It's long overdue," said attorney Sean Summers, who represents the guardians of the girls.
Fitzpatrick, 44, was found guilty in 2015 of murdering Annemarie Fitzpatrick on their property on June 6, 2012, in what the killer maintains was an ATV accident.
"Under Pennsylvania law, a 'slayer' is prohibited from collecting life insurance proceeds," Jones wrote in his memorandum, filed Friday, Dec. 15.
Fitzpatrick earlier this month had his first-degree murder conviction reinstated, as well as his life sentence without the possibility of parole. His conviction had been overturned, but a state appeals court later determined the conviction was proper and ordered it reinstated.
"It is undisputed that Mr. Fitzpatrick is the slayer of his wife," Jones wrote, and therefore his daughters are the "rightful beneficiaries" of the $493,774 life-insurance payout, plus interest.
Family supporting kids: Jones' ruling granted a summary judgment request made by Annemarie's parents, who live in Maryland and are the legal guardians of the two girls, according to court records.
The judge then ordered the case closed.
Summers said this is expected to be the first life-insurance payout for Annemarie, and added he expects this first case will help speed up the insurance-distribution process.
"Annemarie's family has been supporting the kids all these years, and they'll continue to do that," he said, but having extra money will make that easier.
"Essentially, all this money has been parked in the court system for some time," Summers said.
The background: A jury on May 13, 2015, found Fitzpatrick guilty of murdering 43-year-old Annemarie.
He drowned her on June 6, 2012, in a portion of Muddy Creek that runs along the edge of the couple's 30-acre property in Chanceford Township. Police said he staged the scene to make it appear as if they were riding their ATV when it crashed into the creek.
Circumstantial evidence against Fitzpatrick included notes left by Annemarie that implicated her husband, as well as the fact that he was involved in an emotional affair with another woman.
Fitzpatrick had a total of $1.7 million in life-insurance policies on his wife, prosecutors have said.
Victim's notes: Just hours before her death, Annemarie wrote, dated and signed a note in her day-planner at work that said, "If anything happens to me — Joe."
She also wrote an email to herself the same morning, with the subject line "if something happens to me."
It stated: "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."
The night of Annemarie's death, she and her husband ate dinner at their picnic table next to the creek. Prosecutors told jurors that Fitzpatrick physically forced his wife into the water and drowned her.
He then rolled their ATV into the creek and called 911, reporting Annemarie had been driving the ATV, with him on the back, when it went into the creek, according to testimony.
Hearsay issue? While defense attorney Chris Ferro maintains Annemarie's notes constitute hearsay and therefore should have been inadmissible at trial, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker has said that's not the case.
Barker said prosecutors "have no concern whatsoever" that the hearsay argument could lead to a new trial. He said there's clear case law regarding state-of-mind hearsay exceptions, and Annemarie's notes fall into that category.
"They were introduced to show what her state of mind was — and to rebut the fact that (Fitzpatrick) asserted they had a happy marriage," Barker has said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.