The fate of a Plymouth Township man accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter now rests with a Montgomery County Court judge.
Judge William J. Furber heard closing arguments yesterday in the nonjury trial of Mark Patrick O'Donnell, 48. The judge said he planned to review the evidence, including more than 100 exhibits, and announce his verdict tomorrow morning.
Many facts are undisputed.
O'Donnell admits strangling Ebony Dorsey on Dec. 7. She had been babysitting O'Donnell's daughter so he could spend the night doing drugs with the victim's mother, Danielle Cattie, 34, of Whitpain Township.
He concedes that he used cocaine and that he abused the corpse, stuffing it into a 20-gallon storage container, which he hid on a relative's property. But he denies sexually assaulting the Wissahickon High honors student.
Defense attorney Thomas C. Egan III said his client's "obviously aberrant, horrific, violent behavior" would not have occurred absent the drug abuse. O'Donnell did not take the stand.
"But for the cocaine usage, Ebony Dorsey would have gone to school that day," Egan said. "In this case we have a completely normal human being when he's not under the influence of any illegal substance."
Egan said cocaine forced O'Donnell to "snap," rendering him too impaired to form the specific intent to kill required for a first-degree murder conviction.
First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele strongly disagreed, arguing that O'Donnell's deliberate actions before, during and after the crimes proved otherwise.
"Just at the point that he's killing her, that's when the faculties are gone?" asked Steele.
He suggested that the teen's asphyxiation, which the medical examiner testified could have taken up to six minutes, required O'Donnell to take off the girl's pajama pants, knot them twice, wrap them around her neck, and pull them tight.
"Based on that alone, you have the specific intent," he said.
Michael O'Donnell, one of O'Donnell's five siblings, traveled from Florida to attend the trial daily with his mother and sister. He said such behavior was totally out of character for his brother. Another brother was unable to join them because he was subpoenaed as a defense witness.
Similarly, Cattie, a prosecution witness, was barred from viewing the proceeding until closing arguments.
"I just want justice to be done," she said.
O'Donnell is also a "possible suspect" in the May 2006 triple slaying of a Philadelphia family at their Port Richmond home, where O'Donnell had been assigned as a private-duty nurse.
Lt. Frank Vanore, a Philadelphia police spokesman, said yesterday that the case was still under investigation and that a grand jury prevented the department from commenting.