Fenton charged with homicide

FENTON

Anthony Fenton has been charged with homicide in the death of 37-year-old Bradford woman Tammy Prosser.

Fenton, 36, of Bradford, was arrested May 10 for allegedly assaulting Prosser in his apartment at 117 Main St., Upper Apt. Prosser was taken off life support on May 12.

A charge of criminal homicide, a first-degree felony, was added to Fenton’s case this week. Other charges against him are aggravated assault-causes injury with extreme indifference to the value of human life, a first-degree felony; simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, second-degree misdemeanors.

The criminal complaint describes Prosser’s injuries as “horrific” and states, “Upon arrival of Chief (Michael) Ward on scene, the extensive bruising and injuries were so severe, Paramedic Nathan Mealy stated ‘this could be murder/strangle.’”

Prosser was treated at Bradford Regional Medical Center, then flown to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, N.Y., where she died.

Testimony at a preliminary hearing on Thursday alleged that some of the bruising matched the sole of Fenton’s boot.

The hearing was held before District Judge Dominic Cercone, who bound all four charges to McKean County Court. Fenton appeared by video conference.

At the hearing, Mealy, who is employed by the Bradford City Fire Department, described Prosser’s injuries, which included bruising to her neck, ear and eye on the right side of her body, as well as what appeared to be bite marks on her nose and hand.

First responders were dispatched about 12:30 p.m. May 10. When Mealy arrived, Prosser was lying supine on the floor between the bed and the wall and showed no signs of life. The crew began resuscitation efforts right away.

Someone from Mealy’s crew told him it was reported the woman had fallen down the stairs, but the injuries did not appear to match that report. Mealy explained her injuries were isolated to one side of her body.

A similar description of those injuries was echoed by several police officers and medical professionals who testified.

Firefighter/paramedic Butch Kreiner testified that he asked Fenton several questions trying to find out what happened to Prosser. Fenton “was not able to answer me. He was preoccupied with his thoughts and emotions.” The only information that Fenton, who was trying to roll a cigarette, offered “was to save her.”

Ward testified about Fenton’s description of what happened during the hours leading up to the 911 call — a description that Ward said contained several inconsistencies.

When Ward first asked how she got hurt, Fenton said, “I honestly don’t know,” then a few seconds later said she was really drunk and fell down the stairs.

Ward searched the stairwell where Fenton said Prosser fell, looking for evidence. About 6 to 8 inches of the outer sides of the stairs were covered in thick dust, and Ward couldn’t find any spot where the dust was disturbed. He looked for clues such as marks on the wall, skin or blood, but found nothing.

Fenton explained that he saw her fall head over heels, almost like she jumped, bypassing the stairs. That was why her head was injured and dust wasn’t disturbed, he said.

After that, Fenton told Ward that he only heard her fall — he was in another room — and he assumed she tripped on a rug.

In Fenton’s explanation to Ward, Prosser fell down the stairs on May 9, and he wanted to call for help at that time but she said no. Instead, they walked across the street to Tops to buy beer, with Prosser going in the store alone to purchase it. Fenton said she was staggering and experiencing motor control issues on the walk, so much so that he had to almost carry her up the stairs to get back into the apartment.

The bite marks on her nose and hand, as well as hair from Prosser’s head that was found in the apartment, were from sexual intercourse, Fenton claimed.

When Ward asked Fenton his name, Fenton hesitated and at first told him his name was Tony Finton and gave him an incorrect date of birth, Ward said.

Ward recounted that Fenton told him “he couldn’t back pedal his way out of this one.” Fenton also told Ward that he knew he was going to prison, and “if I didn’t put him there, then he was going to go out and find a way to put himself there.”

Ward said there is no official cause of death yet, as the autopsy report is not yet available.

Stephanie Morrison, who was the chart nurse and primary nurse at the BRMC when Prosser arrived, testified not only about Prosser’s alleged assault wounds, but also about a prior health problem. Prosser had a growth on her head that was not cancerous but was being monitored by medical professionals.

According to Morrison, Prosser’s growth had been static in size and location — “vastly different” from her appearance on May 10.

When forensic nurse Cheryl Wier testified, District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer pulled up a photograph on a laptop that Wier had taken of Prosser’s injuries.

“I don’t want to see it,” Fenton said, so Shaffer turned the laptop so it was visible to the judge but not Fenton.

Wier talked about the nature of the bruises, pointed out a possible defensive wound on Prosser’s hand and said the injuries were not consistent with injuries she’d ever seen in someone who fell.

Tops employee Jonathon Ridenour, who cashed out Prosser when she bought beer May 9, talked about Prosser’s appearance. She did not have any noticeable injuries on her face at that time, and she was walking normally.

Surveillance footage from the trip to Tops also indicated that Prosser was not having trouble walking, according to Officer Jason Putt, the primary investigator in the case. In fact, she carried the 15-pack of beer in her right hand, which was the side of her body that was injured.

Putt had overlays made of the soles of Fenton’s boots, and he placed the overlay over a photo Wier took of Prosser’s bruises.

“The two center lines of the boot that are present here line up remarkably well with the ligature marks on the victim’s chest and shoulder,” Putt pointed out.

Public Defender Philip Clabaugh, who is representing Fenton, asked that Cercone dismiss all charges against his client.

Clabaugh explained that they needed to show that Fenton caused Prosser’s injuries and her death. He said that while the evidence might indicate Prosser did not fall down the stairs, “We have no idea what did happen to her.”

Shaffer disagreed, reiterating some of the points brought up in the hearing.

“He caused the injuries and we believe the jury can convict him based on that,” she said.

While Cercone found Clabaugh’s argument “thought-provoking as heck,” he believed there was sufficient evidence for the case to move forward and he bound all charges to court.

Cercone also granted a bail modification request from Shaffer. Fenton, who was being held in McKean County Jail on $600,000 bail, is now being held without bail.

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