Fry trial opens: Neighbor details discovery of body

BY OLIVIA MORAN | MARCH 10, 2009 7:27 AM

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Four home nurses testified at the murder trial of 22-year-old Curtis Fry on Monday, describing their patient — whom Fry allegedly beat to death — as weak and unstable.

Fry, of Wilton, Iowa, is charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of drunkenly killing Patrick McEwen on Feb. 7, 2008 — Fry’s 21st birthday. His trial began Monday and is expected to last four or five days.

Christine Luedtke, a nurse with the Visiting Nurses Association of Johnson County, said she saw McEwen twice a week. Through tears, she testified that she helped the 75-year-old with cooking, cleaning, and bathing.

She described McEwen as “slow and careful,” saying he also needed help dressing and walked with a cane. His nurses testified he was always talkative and enjoyed movies, writing, and making computer-generated pictures.

“He considered me to be like a granddaughter,” Luedtke said. “Every time I came, he would give me a hug, tell me how much he missed me, how glad he was I was there.”

McEwen, who had no close family, resided at his South Van Buren Street apartment for 15 years, formerly attended the UI, and lived in Iowa City most of his life, Johnson County chief prosecutor Janet Lyness said in her opening statement.

Holly Schreck, one of McEwen’s neighbors in the 513 S. Van Buren St. apartment complex, said she discovered him dead on Feb. 8, 2008.

“I went into his bathroom and saw him lying on the floor,” she said as she cried. “He was beaten and bloody.”

Autopsy results indicated McEwen’s injuries included blunt-force fractures to the face, fractured thyroid cartilage, brain bleeding, a left rib fracture, and wounds to his hands.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Quint Meyerdirk said Fry was heavily intoxicated the night of the incident, having visited the Vine Tavern and Eatery, One-Eyed Jakes, Bo-James, and Brothers Bar & Grill to celebrate his birthday with his brother and sister.

His siblings told police Fry ran away from them during their walk back to the residence where they were staying, 513 Bowery St.

Police eventually confiscated Fry’s wallet, his jeans, and his jacket from either at or around the crime scene. Meyerdirk said Fry remembers nothing, arguing Fry was so incoherent that night, he couldn’t tell whether he was indoors or outdoors.

Lauren Nestor, one of McEwen’s neighbors, said she heard loud banging the night of the killing for about 10 minutes. The next morning, Schreck knocked on her door, concerned McEwen was dead.

“Patrick’s cane was in the middle of the hall. The lock was out of place. There was shredded wood that was destroyed,” Nestor said emotionally. “I found Patrick lying in between the toilet and the shower. I took his pulse, and there wasn’t one.”

The final testimony of the day came from Caleb Norton, a UI student who has known Fry since their childhood. Answering questions from defense attorney Peter Persaud, Norton testified Fry has no violent history, is not intimidating, is an honest person, and has high moral standards.

If convicted, Fry faces 50 years in prison.

His trial resumes today at 9 a.m.

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