Suspect in shotgun slaying: It was an accident

Posted: January 25, 2014

PHILADELPHIA The last minutes of Jennifer Fitzpatrick's life played out in a Philadelphia courtroom Thursday on an audiotape of 911 calls and anguished testimony by her mother and the man charged with killing her.

"I just ran over to her and picked her head up, and she died in my arms," said a weeping Colleen Fitzpatrick, recalling her 37-year-old daughter's Feb. 26, 2013, shooting by estranged boyfriend Anthony Alexander.

Fitzpatrick glared at Alexander, 62, nattily dressed in a tan three-piece suit at the defense table.

"He knows what he did," Fitzpatrick said. "He executed her."

"I know this is very hard for you," said Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson, who is hearing Alexander's nonjury murder trial.

Fitzpatrick was not the only one moved to tears by her testimony. Alexander buried his face in his hands as tears ran down his cheeks while Fitzpatrick described her daughter's slaying.

"He's crying," Fitzpatrick muttered as she left the witness box. "What is he crying for?"

Later, testifying in his defense, Alexander insisted the shooting was accidental.

"The gun went off. The gun just went off," Alexander sobbed. "She didn't answer me. She just fell into my arms. This is not what I wanted to do."

Fitzpatrick and Alexander were in a relationship for about eight years and had a 4-year-old son at the time of her death.

Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Donnelly said Alexander killed Fitzpatrick two days after a confrontation with her and her mother at their house in the 500 block of South Yewdall Street in West Philadelphia. The incident had led Fitzpatrick to have Alexander served with a stay-away order.

About 8 a.m. on Feb. 26, Donnelly said, Alexander violated the order and - carrying a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun - accosted Fitzpatrick as she returned from driving two of her four children to school.

She fled and Alexander chased her several blocks - twice firing at her - before cornering her in front of her house and shooting her in the heart.

Defense attorneys Andrea Konow and Roger Schrading conceded that Alexander shot Fitzpatrick, but argued for his acquittal, saying he did not have a criminal intent to murder. Alexander's reputation for nonviolence and honesty, the defense contends, negates any criminal intent.

That defense came under attack later Thursday when Alexander took the witness stand.

Under questioning by one of his lawyers, Alexander recounted how he had emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago in 1995, settled in Philadelphia, and established an auto-repair business at 47th and Brown Streets. He said he met Fitzpatrick in 2004 and they started a relationship.

Alexander said he was dumbfounded when he was served with the protection from abuse order: "Why she did this? I don't understand this."

He said he spent the night before the fatal confrontation pacing, unable to sleep, "humbugged" by his situation.

The next day, Alexander said, he decided to surrender his shotgun as required at the 18th Police District at 55th and Pine Streets. He was going to do that but his car would not start, so he ended up going to his shop and borrowing a customer's black Mercedes-Benz sedan.

But once he was on his way, he decided to drive by Fitzpatrick's house and got there as she was parking her minivan, he said. He grabbed the shotgun and got out of the car, but she ran when she saw him, he said.

"I just ran down the street to see her, to ask her what all this was about," Alexander said, adding that he fired twice into the air to get Fitzpatrick to stop running. The chase ended at her house on Yewdall.

Alexander said he talked to Fitzpatrick as she perched on the edge of the minivan's driver seat. The shotgun was cradled under his right arm.

As they were talking, Alexander testified, Fitzpatrick's parents approached from behind. He said he turned, and the shotgun slipped and as he bucked up the barrel with his right thigh it went off.

Alexander testified that he eased Fitzpatrick's lifeless body to the sidewalk and "then, stupid me, I just got up and ran. Jumped into my car and ran off."

Alexander's demeanor turned from sorrow to anger as prosecutor Donnelly began questioning him.

Donnelly showed him the stay-away order and noted that it did not require Alexander to surrender firearms. Alexander insisted it did but then said the officer who handed him the order told him to surrender his guns.

Donnelly also confronted him with records showing police intervened in several domestic disputes at Alexander's house and that Fitzpatrick alleged that he stabbed her with a screwdriver and broke her little finger.

"It never happened," he angrily replied. "She claimed it, but I didn't do it."

The trial, and Alexander's cross-examination, will resume Wednesday.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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