Woman charged in starvation death of her daughter files insanity plea

December 16, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Mary E. Fisher-Utley, charged with abusing, assaulting and murdering her 9-year-old daughter, Rita D. Fisher, in June, has filed an insanity plea that could excuse her from standing trial.

Thomas C. Nugent Jr., a public defender who is Fisher-Utley's lawyer, declined to give details of why he filed the plea of not criminally responsible, saying only that Fisher-Utley's "background" prompted him to file the motion.

Fisher-Utley, 50, will be examined by state-appointed psychiatrists. If they find her not competent to stand trial, she could be institutionalized indefinitely. The plea was filed Dec. 3 in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Fisher-Utley is scheduled to go on trial April 8, along with her daughter, Rose Mary Fisher, 21, and Fisher's boyfriend, Frank E. Scarpola Jr., 22, who also are charged with murder, abuse and assault.

Rita died June 25 with cracked ribs and numerous bruises and weighing 47 pounds. An autopsy found that she starved to death.

In pretrial court appearances, Fisher-Utley has said little as she sat quietly behind her lawyer with a Bible in her lap. She has appeared wearing rumpled T-shirts and sweat shirts, sitting a few feet from Rose Mary Fisher. The two did not talk or make eye contact.

Few details of the case have come out in court, but one hearing revealed that on the night Rita died, her mother and sister worried that they would be late to work the next day when police delayed them for questioning at the Towson police headquarters.

Pub Date: 12/16/97

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