Thursday, April 29, 1992
Son is key witness in father’s murder trial
By Gary Jones, Messenger News Editor
Sixteen-year-old Mark Fugate testified in an absolutely silent courtroom Tuesday afternoon that his father, Wallace Marvin Fugate, III, shot his mother in the head with a .38 revolver as the son watched on May 4, 1991.
The younger Fugate is testifying in the murder trial of the father, Wallace Fugate, who is charged with shooting Pattie Diane Fugate. In addition, the elder Fugate is charged with one court of burglary, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of kidnapping with bodily harm.
Ocmulgee District Attorney Joe Briley says the state is seeking the death penalty in the case.
Young Mark Fugate took the stand as the state’s key witness in midafternoon, and his riveting testimony was intensified by the fact that as he testified, his father stood looking over his shoulder, no more than eight feed from the witness stand.
Wallace has a hearing disability and wears hearing aids in both ears. This was the only reason he asked to get closer as his son was the only one he cared about. He didn't care what anyone else had to say.
Defense Attorney Reg Bellury had complained that he couldn’t hear the soft-voiced teen on the witness stand. Bellury and Leo Brown of Bellury’s defense team, along with the defendant, walked up closer to the witness stand so they could hear Mark Fugate’s testimony.
The son, wearing blue jeans, basketball shoes and a long-sleeve pale shirt, never let his eyes turn toward his father.
Answering questions from Briley, the young Fugate said that he and his mother had just finished feeding their horses on a friend’s farm on Rabbit Skip Road and were headed home to an A-frame house on Blue Branch Road on May 4 of last year.
Mark Fugate said he and his mother noticed as they pulled into the driveway that the son’s car had been moved. Pattie Fugate, divorced from Mark’s father, assumed that the father had come and worked on the car and then left, according to Mark.
But, as Bellury had told the jury of eight men and four women in his opening remarks, Wallace Fugate had not left. He ws inside the house in the basement, when his ex-wife and son arrived at th eex-wife’s home. Belury, who was to begin offering evidence on behalf of the defendant in the trial on Wednesday at press-time, said that earlier on May 4 Wallace’s car had broken down on Highway 212, and that he walked to the ex-wife’s home to call a tow truck. To gain access to the phone, Wallace had broken into the home through a basement window.
See Exhibit Photos. No fingerprints found and this window can not be raised from the outside. Not without the removal of the two security pins located inside the window. There is a security pin on each side.
As Pattie Fugate dialed her sister’s phone number in Forsyth after entering the home, she told Mark to go down in the basement and put clothes in the washing machine into the dryer. Mother and son were going out of town, and needed to take clean clothes on the trip, Mark testified.
While walking down the steps to the basement, Mark testified he heard car keys jingling downstairs. Mark then said he ran up to his room, got a rifle that he always kept loaded, and took the rifle down into the basement.
Finally coming out into the open, Mark confronted his father with what the son assumed was his loaded rifle, according to Mark’s testimony. Mark also said that when his father came out into the open, he noticed Wallace was carrying a .38 revolver.
Mark also stated he used this gun to shoot squirrels a couple of days before, and had left the bullets by the sliding glass door in the living room.
The son lifted the rifle and pulled the trigger, assuming he would have to kill his father to protect his mother. Why, asked Briley, did you think you would have to kill your father?
“Because,” said Mark in a low voice, “he (Wallace) always said he would kill her (Pattie) if he ever got her alone.”
If Mark heard this statement it had to have been from his mother. She also told him and his cousin, Jennifer, his father would molest them, he was not paying child support which proved he didn't care anything about Mark. Because of Pattie's dishonesty and personality, Mr. Fugate and Sheriff Resseau had set it up the child support payments through the Putnam County Sheriff's Department and he was not behind in any of his payments.
Wallace loved his son dearly. Nothing that Mark or Pattie ever wanted was denied to either of them if Wallace was able to get it for them.
Sad but it just seems Pattie simply did not want Mark to have anything to do with his father. People that knew Pattie well, and who could testify to some of her personality traits, were not allowed to do so.
Mark’s gun, however, had no bullets. The state maintains that Wallace disabled his son’s weapon. Bellury is expected to deny that as the defense was presenting its case at press-time.
Photos clearly show two boxes of bullets, one in Mark's bedroom and one under the telephone in the living room. Other photos shows the plunger still in the rifle. This rifle would still fire, just not repeatedly, even without the plunger. Close-up photos clearly show plunger was inserted in the rifle.
At that time, Wallace rushed past his son and headed upstairs toward his ex-wife, who was talking on the phone to her sister. Mark said he yelled upstairs to his mother as Wallace ran up the steps, “call the police.”
If Mark yelled to his mother, and if she was supposedly so scared of Wallace, then why didn't Pattie tell her sister to call the sheriff or take her gun inside the house with her she had in the van?
Wallace could not have rushed past Mark since the game room is 12 feet wide. Mark was at the lightswitch and Wallace was at the stairs.
ALSO KEEP IN MIND ALL THIS HAPPENED IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES!
Over the course of the next few minutes, Wallace savagely beat his ex-wife and shot her after Wallace failed in his attempts to get her into her own van, according to Mark’s testimony.
The Autopsy Report disproves Wallace beat Pattie with his pistol. His attorneys did not even cross-examined Mark on his statement that his father beat his mother "over 50 times" with the pistol. There was only two places on Pattie anyone could have remotely thought might have been made by a pistol. One being a round area on the top right side of Pattie's head where Buck states she fell on top of him and her head hit the floor during their struggle and the other a zig-zag shape cut he is not sure how it happened. He thinks it was proably when he pushed her back and she fell back on some stuff located in the room that led to the outside door.
Mark said his father hit his mother repeatedly with the .38, and was dragging her toward the door that led outside when his mother grabbed the steps of some stairs that led to the loft of the A-frame house. Wallace fired his weapon, according to Mark, "to scare Pattie into letting go of the steps. It worked," testified Mark.
The gun fired when Pattie was struggling to get the gun and it went off. It was pointing downward and into the living room, no where near where Mark was in the kitchen. In one of Mark's earlier statements he says his father had the gun pointed at him when it fired but never testified to that happening.
Mark also stated that there were bruises on Pattie's neck from where Wallace had stepped on her throat while at these stairs. Deputy Mize stated he saw bruises too but did not state that in their testimonies as the Autopsy disproves this... there were no bruises on Pattie's neck, according to the Autopsy Report. Wallace wore cleated working boots that day, therefore if he had stepped on Pattie's throat there is no doubt she would have bruising in her neck area.
Feeling threatened by the pistol his father was using to beat his mother, Mark said that when he saw his father trying to put his mother in the van, he ran to find outdoor furniture which he used to block off the entrance to the driveway at the residence. “I didn’t want him to leave with her because I thought he would kill her,” explained Mark.
The location of where Mark was supposed to have been throwing 'stuff' to block his father from leaving is over 80 feet from where Pattie's body was located with trees blocking any view. There was no way he could have seen anything. Mark's 5 different statements each state he was doing a different thing when Pattie was shot.
Why Mark thought his father would kill his mother if he left with her is anyone's guess as no witnesses were brought forward that had ever heard such a statement was ever made by Wallace or by Pattie.
Wallace, testified Mark, tried several times to get Pattie into the driver’s seat of the van. Finally, as it became clear Wallace couldn’t get Pattie into the van, Mark testified that his father held the gun no more than 12 inches from his mother and fired a single shot into her forehead.
Mark just stated he was throwing 'stuff' in the driveway and now he is at the van, over 80 feet distance? See Autopsy Report as it proves the shot was not at close range and the photos taken of the inside of the van prove she was not outside the van, but inside, when she was shot. Gun fired when Pattie kicked Wallace and his hand, holding the gun, flew up stricking the top edge of the van's doorframe. Striking with force enough to break Wallace's small finger on his right hand. The entrance path of the bullet is outlined in the report also... downward and at an angle. Pattie had to have been shot in the van or there would not have been any blood inside, and there was some on a napkin located on the floor where her head fell back. But then you also see Wallace's shirt showing in the same photo as the napkin taken before the crime scene was alter and other photos taken. There were no powder burns nor residue found according to the Autopsy Report such as there would have been if this was at point-blank range.
The teenager then said his father drove off, and he rushed to his mother’s side.
Briley then asked the teen to step down from the witness stand to illustrate to the jurors how his mother slumped over as the son felt his mother’s neck and wrist, searching for a pulse.
It was at the point 41-year-old Wallace Fugate, who had been listening to his son’s testimony, walked back to sit at the defense team’s table. It was the first time in the trial Wallace showed any emotion. He shook his head and fought back tears that were building in his eyes.
Wallace walked back and sit down as he could not believe Mark would make up all the lies. At this time he realized how much damage Pattie had really done. He was under the impression Pattie just wanted to keep him away from Mark so they could not have a close relationship. He never dreamed his son would really believe all the things he had heard without any proof. It was as if Mark had blocked anything and everything good his father had done with and for him and his mother.
As the teen began to testify about how he reacted to finding that his mother had no pulse, the son began to openly weep.
His first reaction after finding that his mother had no pulse was to run inside to find bullets for his rifle.
Where was Billy Ray Cofer and what was he doing during this time as he had arrived at the house right after Wallace left? He was not brought up during the trial that Mark had raised Pattie up from laying on the ground where Wallace had placed her and that was the reason there was blood on her face.
“Why did you do that, Mark?” asked Briley.
“I tried to find bullets so I could kill myself,” the younger Fugate said between sobs.
Mark was not in any mental state to testify. Afterall, Mark was only 15 years old at the time... but was old enough to be held accountable for what he stated.
It isn't a normal response for a young boy to have this kind of thought and shows how much Mark needed help. This ideal came to him later as you can read in one of his five different statements. If Mark had really wanted to take his own life he could have easily done so. The rifle was not disabled as the plunger is clearly shown in one of the photos not presented during the trail. There are also 2 boxes of bullets clearly seen in various photos that were represed and not seen until after the trial had ended.
Being there was no cross-examination, so to speak, nothing Mark said had to be proven.
There was just not enough time for Mark to have done all this in only 5 minutes time.
“If you did that, you thought you’d be with your mother, is that right?” asked Briley.
“Yes,” said the young Fugate, “I didn’t want to live without her.”
Finding no bullets, the young Fugate said he decided it was better to stay alive than kill himself.
“And why was that, Mark?” asked Briley.
“Because I figured they’d need a witness to put him (Wallace) away.” said Mark.
This is exactly what Mark's testimony was all about... to just 'put him away'. Go and look at all the evidence that was repressed. Mark's testimony made a great story and people 'ate it up', never taking the time to find out if the things he said could have really happened.
The only cross examination the defense asked Mark was about the bullets... then he did admit he, not his father, had taken out the bullets a couple of days before while shooting squirrels.
There were no fingerprints of Wallace's found on this rifle.
Mark Fugate then said he took a portable phone outside where his mother was lying in the rain, held her hand, and with the other hand dialed the sheriff’s department. That, testified Putnam County Deputy Sheriff Clarence Harper, is how he found Mark Fugate and his 38-year-old mother, Pattie – with Mark holding Pattie’s hand with one hand and holding the phone with the other.
EMT Amerson, along with his partner, EMT Lowe, were directly behind Deputy Harper. They saw 'a young man' coming out of the house, not sitting beside Pattie. The EMT's went directly to Pattie's body when they got out of the ambulance.
Bellury had yet to offer any of the defense’s evidence at press-time, but in opening statements he said that Pattie had kicked Wallace in the chest during the struggle at the van, and that Wallace’s hand holding the gun bumped into the van’s door frame. That made the gun go off, said Bellury in his opening remarks, and the shooting was accidental.
Dr. Jones of Milledgeville later examined Wallace but she was not called to testify about any of his injuries, nor was she asked to give a statement by Wallace's lawyers.
Should the jury, sequestered for the duration of the trail, find Wallace Fugate guilty of murder, the state would then request the death penalty. The resulting sentencing phase in the trail would likely last several more days.
With so much evidence being withheld and no cross-examinations by Wallace's lawyers the jury returned their guilty verdict in less than one hour. They could not have possibly even looked at all the evidence in that length of time.