A jury found a Milwaukee man guilty Friday in the stabbing deaths of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter after the prosecutor ripped into his claim that an intruder killed them and returned to set the victims' home on fire.
Patrick Fowler, 33, was convicted of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide Friday in the deaths of 28-year-old Jessica Ellenberger and her daughter, Madyson Marshel. Ellenberger was stabbed 26 times and her throat was slit. Madyson, who had recovered from cancer surgery not long before her death, was stabbed twice.
Fowler testified Thursday that someone else was responsible for the March 2016 killings. He said he was hiding in the bathroom when he heard Ellenberger scream followed by the girl crying out. He said his own fear kept him from intervening and that he didn't call police before fleeing because he didn't think anyone would believe him.
"I kneeled down by Jessica. I held her and prayed for them," Fowler testified.
The testimony contrasted sharply with the taped confession Fowler gave detectives after his arrest in Arkansas. He told them that he repeatedly stabbed Ellenberger because he felt disrespected, killed her daughter next as she screamed out "Mommy!" and then used the child's coloring books to set the fire. He and Ellenberger had been dating for about a month.
Fowler testified that the confession, which was played for the jury, was false.
He is scheduled to be sentenced May 5 and faces life in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Lonski said in his closing argument Friday that Fowler's claims of a "bogeyman" were absurd. He described Fowler's testimony as sickening.
Lonski said the "spectacle of the child murderer crying on the witness stand while giving phony testimony" was capped by a defense attorney bringing Fowler a tissue.
"Thank you for not vomiting," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Calvin Malone said in his closing that his client's fear warped his judgment, froze his reflexes and led to the mistakes he made in not intervening to stop the attack or call police afterward.
"The situation became so overwhelming, he could not explain what happened," Malone said.