An hour or two had passed as they sat and listened to the tearful deposition of the mother and father who lost their daughter and granddaughter. Both made their last efforts to reassure the judge of the cruelty and evil that was bestowed upon their family from the man sitting only footsteps away.
There, strapped to a wheelchair in his bright orange jumpsuit, the defendant gave his eerie last statements, and a sense of unease consumed the courtroom. Their living nightmare sat hauntingly with braids that caged his face and shot to the sky mimicking devil horns.
They clenched damp tissues and hung onto the words of the judge. With a spine-chilling whimper that echoed the courtroom, the paralyzing silence was broken as Judge Mark Sanders gave Patrick Fowler his sentencing. A year of suffering for the friends and family of Jessica Ellenberger and Madyson Marshel had finally reached an end.
On May 5, 33-year-old Fowler was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Fowler was found guilty in April of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the murder of Ellenberger and her 4-year-old daughter Madyson.
On the night before Palm Sunday, March 19, 2016, Fowler and Ellenberger had started their day shopping for Easter gifts and candy before returning to Ellenberger’s home. There an argument ensued and the attack followed.
Fowler stabbed Ellenberger and Marshel to death, before using Marshel’s coloring books to set the house on fire. Their bodies were found in Ellenberger’s home near 68th and Stevenson. After threatening relatives for help to cover his crime, Fowler bought a bus ticket to flea the state to Texas. He was later apprehended during a layover in Arkansas.
“I always promised Mady (Madyson) I’d protect her but I couldn’t,” said a distraught Annette Ellenberger, mother and grandmother of the victims, during her deposition. “And this will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Fowler’s sentencing began with a rocky start, as Fowler was initially absent from the courtroom. After a failed plea to waive Fowler’s absence, Fowler was reluctantly wheeled out to the courtroom to face his sentencing. “We don’t accept waivers for his convenience,” said the prosecutor. “He does not rule the court.”
The prosecutor began by referencing documents given to the judge of letters from friends, family and even strangers as far as Hungary who wrote in defense of the two victims. This was followed by a recap of Fowler’s lengthy criminal record and past arrest only months before the killing of Ellenberger and Marshel. The Ellenbergers then followed with heart-wrenching depositions. They recalled memories with their granddaughter, Marshel, who had beat cancer in January just two months before the murder. The courtroom was a symphony of sniffles as they recounted their pleasant moments their family had experienced with the now deceased.
“What bothers me is that we did not know anything about Patrick Fowler,” said the father and grandfather of the victims. “This is the reason we are here.” He flashes a photo of the victims before leaving the stand.
The atmosphere of the courtroom shifted as the judge began to hear from the defendant Fowler before his sentencing. Malone begins by recalling Fowler’s difficult upbringing and life of incarceration referring to his life as “suspended animation.” Malone states that Fowler’s relationship with the law, which began at the age of 12, restricted him from growing as an adolescent. Fowler was also waived into adult court after an altercation at the age of 15 and was recently diagnosed with personality disorder during his most recent incarceration.
Fowler was then allowed to speak, and puts the courtroom a cycle of confusion. The family of the victims listen intently to Fowler’s low murmurs of Jessica’s alleged battle with drugs, his absence during the murder, and his now negative reputation in the eyes of the public. “Falsehood has been spewed about me,” said fowler. “I forgive everyone for the wrong they have said about me.”
Before the final verdict, Sanders addressed three factors that would be considered in making his sentencing: nature of the crime, character of the defendant, and needs of the public in regard to the crime and criminal.
“There are people who don’t know you, who will never meet you and who can’t sleep because of the horror you inflicted on Jessica and Madyson,” said Judge Sanders.
Despite his conviction, Fowler maintains his innocence in the crime and is set for a restitution hearing June 30.