When a 911 dispatcher asked a dying Port Richmond man who shot him, the victim was able to gasp, "my nurse," according to documents unsealed in Montgomery County yesterday. Those documents indicate William Fowler, 53, pointed investigators in the direction of Mark Patrick O'Donnell, who is facing an unrelated death-penalty murder trial in Montgomery County Court.
Fowler was fatally bludgeoned and shot along with his wife and son inside their home on Tulip Street in 2006.
O'Donnell, 48, of Plymouth Township, worked as a private-duty nurse and had been assigned "on numerous occasions" up to Jan. 18, 2006, to Fowler's wife, Estella, 50, who was partially blind and had multiple sclerosis; and their son, John, 20, a quadriplegic, the affidavit said.
O'Donnell's defense attorney, Thomas C. Egan 3d, disputed the connection. He said O'Donnell, described by his nursing agency as "an exemplary employee," stopped working for the Fowlers four months before their murders and has never been implicated with weapons.
"I can't say he's not being identified as a possible suspect," said Egan. "But they certainly would have charged him if they had the opportunity."
Philadelphia Police Sgt. Frank Hayes said the three investigators familiar with the case were not working yesterday.
Until O'Donnell was arrested for the Dec. 7 rape and strangulation-murder of Ebony Nicole Dorsey, a Wissahickon High honor student, Philadelphia police had not interviewed him. He was a no-show for two meetings and later ignored a grand-jury subpoena, the affidavit said.
Philadelphia detectives contacted Montgomery County officials after O'Donnell's arrest in December, seeking a search warrant to obtain a DNA sample, said Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele.
Steele had the record sealed because it makes reference to a confidential Philadelphia grand-jury investigation and because its release could have hampered investigators and endangered witnesses, the affidavit said.
The affidavit also says that an unidentified home-care worker described a heated argument she overheard "about five weeks prior to the murders" between "a nurse known to her as Mark" and William Fowler over the care the nurse had been providing at the family's home in the 3600 block of Tulip Street. Fowler directed a racial slur at the nurse before he left, the affidavit said.
Steele said yesterday that he did not know whether O'Donnell's DNA matched evidence in the Fowler case. He said he unsealed the documents because O'Donnell, who has been in custody without bail, is entitled to review them before his capital murder trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday.
In that case, O'Donnell is accused of sexually assaulting and fatally strangling Ebony Dorsey, who had been babysitting O'Donnell's 4-year-old daughter at his home so that he could spend the night smoking crack cocaine with Dorsey's mother, Danielle Cattie, 34, of Whitpain Township.
O'Donnell initially told police he had driven the girl home, but police found her body stuffed into a plastic storage bin two days later. O'Donnell then admitted the slaying but said the teen provoked his rage.
Cattie pleaded guilty yesterday to endangering the welfare of a child and drug offenses that stemmed from the murder investigation, Steele said. She will be sentenced at a later date.