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Expert: Fry suffered blackout

BY OLIVIA MORAN | MARCH 13, 2009 7:30 AM

A toxicologist testified he is sure Curtis Fry was blacked out from drinking too much the night he allegedly killed a 75-year-old man.

Terry Martinez, who also specializes in pharmacology, said after reviewing police reports, depositions, and Fry’s interview tape, he concluded there are seven reasons to believe Fry, 22, entered a blackout stage on Feb. 7, 2008 — Fry’s 21st birthday.

Martinez testified at the fourth day of Fry’s second-degree murder trial on Thursday, stating the first reason he concluded Fry was blacked out that night was Fry’s consumption of a sufficient amount of alcohol in a rapid fashion. He also demonstrated odd behavior, admitting to possibly killing a man but leaving the scene anyway.

Third, Martinez said, witnesses testified Fry couldn’t determine whether he was inside or outside that night. He also left his wallet and some clothing at the scene of the alleged crime, and a witness testified Fry was awake but seemed passed out.

Martinez testified his final reason for believing Fry was blacked out is his change in demeanor — depicted in the interview tape — when an officer told him he was suspected of killing Patrick McEwen.

“A blackout is where a person is very similar to sleepwalking,” Martinez told the defense. “[But] they don’t have access to all of their information. They’ll never be able to recall it.”

Fry’s defense attorneys filed an intoxication defense last year. Police accused Fry of breaking into McEwen’s apartment and beating him to death.

Witnesses testified Wednesday Fry had as many as 13 shots the night of the incident in addition to some beer.

Marcus Nashelsky, a UI clinical associate professor of pathology, conducted McEwen’s autopsy, concluding he died from blunt-force injuries to the head and neck.

Photos displayed of the autopsy showed a close-up of McEwen’s face, covered in multicolored bruises. He had scratches and marks on his face as well, and his nose and cheek were broken, Nashelsky testified.

The facial fractures “are caused by impacts with a non-sharp object” such as a fist, Nashelsky told Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness.

McEwen also suffered from fractured thyroid cartilage, possibly from strangulation, Nashelsky testified. He had brain bleeding, a bruise on his upper back, defensive-type injuries on his arms and hands, and blood in his stomach from bleeding into his mouth.

Nashelsky confirmed not all of McEwen’s injuries could have resulted from a fall. One of McEwen’s neighbors found his body on the floor of his bathroom at McEwen’s 513 S. Van Buren St. apartment.

Attorneys Peter Persaud and Quint Meyerdirk began presenting their defense on Thursday, calling four men to the stand from Fry’s hometown of Wilton.

Hawkeye wrestler Chad Beatty testified first, telling Persaud he’s known Fry since they were young.
“I don’t think he’s violent at all,” Beatty said. “He’s a great guy, great kid. I don’t think this event should define his life.”

Beatty’s father, Paul Beatty, also testified. Fry laughed along with his attorneys and others watching the trial as Paul Beatty told stories of Fry’s childhood.

He said Fry, a successful athlete in high school, was always the honest one, from T-ball to baseball. Fry became emotional as he went on.

“There’s no way you would ever use the word violence when you refer to Curtis. He was always the exact opposite,” Paul Beatty testified. “If I needed something, he’d be there to help with it.”

Wilton Police Chief Timothy Leathers said he was even courting Fry to become a police officer, calling him a possible perfect police officer for Wilton. But Leathers said he had doubts about Fry’s future as an officer, worried Fry couldn’t be aggressive enough when needed.

“He has not been known to be overly aggressive,” Leathers said. “He is known to be a very peaceful young man in our community.”

All four of the witnesses, however, said they had never witnessed Fry intoxicated.

Second-degree murder is a Class B felony. If convicted, Fry faces 50 years in prison.

The final day of trial will resume today at 9 a.m. The state and the defense rested their cases on Thursday and will conclude the trial with their closing statements.


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