MAYVILLE – Before being seated for the murder trial of Jason Wells, jurors were warned that they would be asked to view some very disturbing evidence.
Thursday, they watched a video and listened to an audio recording Wells made the day 81-year-old Ruth Fisk was brutally killed in Wells’ Fredonia apartment. They also viewed autopsy photos.
Judge John T. Ward warned everyone in the courtroom that he did not want to hear any gasping or voices from the jury or the audience as the 42-minute recording was played.
The video was very dark, but the recording of the two voices was clear. Jurors heard Fisk plead over and over again for help to get out of a chair in Wells’ apartment. The jurors were told that the prosecutor was going to have family members identify the two voices on the tape, but the defense attorney said he would stipulate that the two voices were that of his client and the victim.
“You tricked me,” she said. “I should have never gotten off of the elevator.” At one point she asks Wells if he would feel bad if she got hurt.
He replied to her another time, “Settle down, honey.” The jurors heard the 37-year-old Wells offer the elderly victim a beer, which she declined, and a piece of gum.
The recording was allegedly made by Wells in his apartment in the early morning hours of Feb. 3 or 4, 2010.
At one point, Fisk asks Wells to stop drinking, saying it is not good for him. At another time, she tells him his pants are too big. She tells him he should wear a belt that she bought for him.
The conversation does not escalate into an argument. The final comment from Wells is, “I told you in the first place, but you were not … listening.”
The comment is followed by a muffled screaming noise and very heavy breathing. Next there are several minutes of noises that sound like clanging, water running and loud groans.
Thursday was the third day of testimony in the trial, which is being held in the Chautauqua County Courthouse. Dr. Dianna Vertes, formerly of the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office, testified that Fisk’s death was caused by strangulation, multiple blunt force trauma and multiple sharp force injuries. They saw six photos taken at an autopsy of the victim’s battered head and body, and charts indicating DNA samples from the victim and the defendant.
Jurors were shown six photos of the autopsy, which Vertes said she performed Feb. 6, 2010. Vertes testified that the victim weighed 195 pounds and was about 5 feet, 2 inches tall.
Defense attorney Lyle Hajdu tried to get the photos thrown out.
“These photos are haunting and gruesome, and they will prejudice the jury,” he said. He told Ward that the photos were among the most horrendous he had ever seen.
Assistant District Attorney Grace Hanlon said that only six photos were selected from hundreds that were taken and that she thought Vertes would be able to explain the extent of injuries and her findings with the photographs.
Ward admitted the photographic evidence and cautioned the jurors not to let their emotions prejudice their decision.
Vertes explained that there were various stab wounds to the victim’s eyes. She also noted that there were injuries to the victim’s neck that are common to strangulation.