For his sentencing, convicted murderer Patrick Fowler styled his hair in devil horns. As he was brought in to the courtroom in a wheelchair, the people assembled, which included court security and members of the victims’ family, gasped in shock at the hairdo.
Chillingly, Fowler, sentenced May 5 to life in prison without possibility of parole for the stabbing deaths of 28-year old Jessica Ellenberger and her daughter Madyson Marshel, 4, told the court that his hairdo was a reflection of how his victims’ family perceived him.
“Last night, I received a stack of letters that were written by a number of victims, maybe 50 or 60 of them,” Fowler said. “I read all the names of what they called Patrick. I appear as what they call me.”
Fowler, 33, sat motionless as the family of Ellenberger and Marshel read their statements. In a twisted turn of events, it was discovered that Marshel had undergone extensive thoracic surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on New Year’s Eve of 2015. Marshel is remembered by her family as having an infectious personality, despite all she had been through.
“Maddy liked Starbucks hot chocolate with extra whipped cream,” said grandmother Annette Ellenberger. “The last time we were there, she ordered by herself for the first time. She ordered, and then turned around with her hands on her hips and said, ‘I did it!’”
The child and her mother were found stabbed to death on March 19 in their house near 68th St. in Milwaukee. After stabbing Ellenberger 12 times while Marshel watched, Fowler stabbed the four-year-old and used her coloring books to set the house on fire. During his April 21 preliminary hearing, Fowler showed little remorse for his crimes.
“He confessed, but he did not take responsibility,” the prosecutor stated. “He displayed a cavalier attitude, laughing at officials and telling them ‘they needed to be patient and they would get what they wanted’”.
After killing Ellenberger and Marshel, members of Fowler’s family helped him dispose of his bloodied clothing and buy a one-way bus ticket to Texas. Officials detained him when the bus stopped in Arkansas. Fowler, who was born in Chicago and moved to Milwaukee when he was four, has an extensive criminal record, tracing back to age 12. Fowler attributes his criminality to an abusive past.
“Your honor, it’s been a tough road,” Fowler told Judge Mark Sanders. “I’ve been through the ringer. I have never really reached the point where I thought I’d achieved everything I wanted to achieve.”
Previous psychological assessments done while Fowler was incarcerated at Dodge County Correctional Facility indicated that he had been exposed to a “sadistic level of trauma”, the defense stated. Fowler’s attorney revealed that his mother was addicted to drugs, and exposed her son to systematic abuse. Fowler’s father was perpetually absent, working to support the family.
“There is no possibility that proper treatment could have been given to Mr. Fowler,” the attorney stated. “There was an increasing attitude of giving up on Mr. Fowler. While in Dodge Correctional Facility, most of his medication was dismissed as unnecessary. He has a need for treatment that he has never received.”
Although Fowler’s offenses mandated a life sentence in prison, his defense went into the sentencing asking for the eventual possibility of parole. According to state law, Judge Mark Sanders had three options in Fowler’s sentencing: to make him eligible for parole after exactly 20 years of incarceration, to authorize parole sometime after 20 years, or to eliminate the possibility of parole altogether. Jessica Ellenberger’s father, Konrad, was adamant about the necessity of a life sentence.
“I want you to sentence him to death in prison,” he told the judge. “I know you can’t call it that, but he will die a little each day when he is incarcerated.”
As he concluded his statement, Konrad Ellenberger, who was a member of the Milwaukee Police Dept. for 32 years, showed the judge photos of Jessica and Madyson. Jessica’s mother, Annette, said that Konrad and his only grandchild were ‘inseparable’.
“Before you make your decision, I want you to just look at my daughter and granddaughter one last time,” Konrad Ellenberger said. “Keep their faces in your mind. If he can do that to these people, he can do it to anyone.”
Before he handed down his ruling, Judge Sanders addressed Fowler directly.
“I completely accept that your childhood was disastrously bad,” said the judge. “But it’s just remarkable how much damage you did to so many people. The public simply has to be protected from you.”
When making his final decision, Judge Sanders also took into account the severity of Fowler’s previous crimes, which included convictions for sexual assault, battery, and child abuse, among other things.
When the judge handed Fowler his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the courtroom was silent, except for the relieved sobs of the victims’ family.