Construction worker goes on trial, charged with fatally punching man

Victim's death at first laid to natural causes

July 07, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A Middle River construction worker went on trial yesterday in the death of a White Marsh man who originally was found to have died of natural causes -- until an exhumation and autopsy ruled otherwise.

Gary Lee Fischer Sr., 44, of the 13000 block of Twin River Beach Road is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment in the August death of Allen Eugene Ellis.

Prosecutor S. Ann Brobst told the Baltimore County Circuit Court jury that Fischer acted out of jealousy when he allegedly hit Ellis, 33, with enough force to kill him outside a Pulaski Highway bar.

But Peter S. O'Neill, Fischer's attorney, said Ellis attacked Fischer, and Fischer hit him once in self-defense and walked away.

"It was a one-punch fight," O'Neill said. "For all we know, Mr. Fischer believed that Mr. Ellis was fine."

Ellis originally was ruled to have died Aug. 20 of a "brain-stem herniation" from natural causes, and his body was buried at Holly Hills Memorial Gardens.

But on Oct. 4, Sara Jane Festerman -- who was in a relationship with Fischer at the time of the incident -- contacted police and implicated Fischer in Ellis' death. Ellis' body was exhumed, and an autopsy determined that the cause of death was blunt-force trauma.

Yesterday, the prosecutor told jurors that Festerman had a child with Ellis and stayed in touch with him. But the prosecutor said Fischer didn't approve of that contact and told Festerman, "If you talk to him again, I'll kill him."

According to police, Festerman later told them Fischer saw her and Ellis talking at a Pulaski Highway bar on Aug. 19 and was "fuming." The prosecution alleges that Fischer left the bar but came back in the early hours of Aug. 20, then ambushed Ellis.

The prosecution claims that Fischer then went home, where he met Festerman and told her he got into a violent fight with Ellis.

The defense attorney, however, called Festerman's statements a "web of lies," saying she enjoyed watching the two men fight over her. He also said her testimony should not be believed, because she waited six weeks before going to police.

"The entire state's case is predicated on the assumption that she's telling the truth," O'Neill said.

"There's not one single witness that will testify that on the night of the incident Mr. Fischer intended to do any harm to Mr. Ellis."

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