Sane or not?

MAYVILLE – After 20 witnesses testified under oath, the prosecution in the Jason Wells murder trial rested, allowing the defense to begin its rebuttal.

Another short day of testimony took place Friday in Chautauqua County Court when Lyle Hajdu, Wells’ defense attorney, called forth five subpoenaed witnesses that had encountered the defendant just hours before Ruth Fisk died. Three asserted Wells came into Medusa’s Hair Salon after business hours and insisted his hair be “laundered,” while the other two witnesses said he knocked at their door and asked to come in, even though they did not know him.

Hajdu previously told the jury of six men and six women that while he admits his client killed Fisk, they would hear testimony calling Wells’ sanity into question at the time of the slaying.

“(Friday) seems to be a day of transition for us since the prosecution wrapped up its case earlier than first expected, and most of the defense’s witnesses are scheduled for next week and some had scheduling conflicts, so they were not available until then,” Hajdu explained to Judge John Ward regarding the brevity of Friday’s proceedings.

Wells, a former resident of the One Temple Square apartment complex, allegedly stabbed and beat Fisk, 81, a retired nurse and a fellow One Temple Square resident and friend, to death in the early hours of Feb. 4, 2010. He was 37 at the time.

The defendant faces second-degree murder, a crime punishable by 25 years to life behind bars.


Around 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 3, 2010, Jennifer Mackowiak, Kathleen Rossi and Erika Lynden all became uneasy after they say they observed Wells become agitated after he was told he could not get his hair shampooed at Medusa’s in Fredonia after normal business hours.

Mackowiak explained she and Rossi were about to lock up when Wells came in and requested the service. Mackowiak told him he would have to come back in the morning when the salon reopened.

“He seemed different (from most people),” she recalled. “His hair was messy and he kept getting angry. He repeated he wanted his hair shampooed and ‘laundered’ and he did not want to leave.”

According to her testimony, Wells even offered money for service, as if to prepay, but Mackowiak and Rossi declined.

Rossi recalled he seemed “disheveled and sloppy” and he told her she reminded him of his ex-wife. He even stated, “You (expletive) women are all the same.”

“He kept inching his way closer to us and the middle of the shop,” Rossi stated.

After he finally walked out of the salon, Rossi asked Lynden to call the police. Mackowiak stated an officer did not arrest Wells and told the women not to worry and that he would be brought home since he was intoxicated.

“He freaked me out,” Mackowiak said.

A few days later, the women got a call from police to come down to the station and each give a statement on the incident. At that point, Fisk’s body had been discovered.

On cross-examination, county District Attorney David Foley had Mackowiak point out in her statement that she had said Wells used both “laundered” and “shampooed” in speaking with her. In attempting to disprove Wells was insane, Foley asked Mackowiak to attest he did not “talk jibberish,” He reacted angrily to a price he felt was too high and he was responsive during the whole conversation with the women.


That same night, Kyleigh Tarnowski and Sagan Sheffield had a similar encounter with Wells when he apparently knocked on the door to their apartment across the street from Medusa’s.

“He said he knew the people that lived here and I wasn’t sure what he was talking about since we didn’t know him,” Tarnowski recalled. “He then asked if we needed anything and if our plumbing worked since he had helped with the plumbing there before. He also asked if he could come back and say ‘hi’ sometime.”

She said Wells even leaned in over her shoulder to notice the walls were painted.

After the three-minute exchange, Wells left and Tarnowski closed and locked the door, as well as a second door leading out from the apartment.

She added she was scared and felt threatened by Wells, who never really looked directly at Tarnowski as he talked to her.

“I could tell he was not a good person,” she noted. “I could tell he wasn’t sober, or maybe even not right (in the head).”

Sheffield immediately called the police after Wells left, but she stated an officer never came to the apartment to interview them.

“A few days later, they asked us to come down to the station to make statements,” Sheffield added.

In another attempt to disprove an insanity defense, Assistant District Attorney Grace Hanlon on cross-examination had Tarnowski point out Wells was correct when he said the walls were painted. The defendant also seemed responsive to the conversation, which Sheffield said was cohesive and made sense.

Trial proceedings should continue Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

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