- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man strangled and drowned his wife nearly two years ago and lied about an ATV wreck to cover up the crime, police said as he was held without bail Thursday on a homicide charge.

State police said Felton resident Joseph Bernard Fitzpatrick III, 41, stood to collect more than $1.7 million in life insurance proceeds because of the June 2012 death of his wife, Annemarie.

A court affidavit by police said Joe Fitzpatrick searched the Internet for “life insurance review during contestability period” and “polygraph legal in which states” in the days before his wife died.

Fitzpatrick also had been having an extramarital affair at the time and had talked about plans to divorce, police said.

Annemarie Fitzpatrick left a signed note on her daily planner at work that listed the date she died - June 6 - and said: “If something happens to me - JOE,” police said.

Detectives also found an email she sent to herself the day she died, with the subject line “if something happens to me.” It recounted an incident the day before in which a huge log almost fell onto her from a pile where her husband was located.

A call seeking comment from Joe Fitzgerald’s lawyer, Christopher Ferro, wasn’t immediately returned.

Police said an autopsy found a fractured rib and many other injuries suffered by Annemarie Fitzpatrick, but her husband, who said he was riding on the ATV while she drove, did not have any injury that required treatment.

Although her cause of death was determined to be drowning, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy told police she considered the death to be suspicious.

According to police, Joe Fitzpatrick told detectives the couple had been celebrating their recent anniversary with dinner along the north branch of Muddy Creek when his wife said she wanted to drive the ATV. He told police she was not experienced with the vehicle and drove it into the water.

Joe Fitzpatrick said he could not find her at first, so he called 911 before he saw her body in the creek, police said.

His girlfriend, who was not named in the charging documents, told police she had informed Joe Fitzgerald four days earlier that he would have to leave his wife if he wanted to continue their relationship, according to the affidavit.

The girlfriend recounted how Joe Fitzpatrick told her after the death to delete their Facebook exchanges.

“He reportedly told his love interest that Annemarie drowned ‘because that’s what the coroner was listing as the cause of death,’” police alleged.

He allegedly told the girlfriend that his wife had discovered the affair and told him she would probably remarry and another man would end up raising their children.

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