HACKENSACK, N.J. — Prosecutors cross-examining a Florida man who claims he was too fat to have killed his former son-in-law tried to portray the defendant as a skilled marksman and attempted to undercut his alibi.
The 62-year-old defendant, Edward Ates, was at least 285 pounds when Paul Duncsak was shot in 2006.
Ates’ attorney has made the case that his client didn’t have the energy to run up a staircase, accurately shoot Duncsak, leave before police arrived, then make a 21-hour drive to his mother’s home in Louisiana, as prosecutors claim.
His doctor testified that bounding up the stairs would have caused Ates to become short of breath and shake, making it difficult to keep his wrist straight enough to accurately fire a gun at someone from a distance.
On Thursday, Ates took the stand in his own defense but didn’t delve much into his weight.
Prosecutors claim Ates drove from his home in Fort Pierce, Fla., to Duncsak’s $1.1 million home in Ramsey, about 25 miles northwest of Manhattan, in August 2006 and shot him as he came home from work. Police quickly suspected Ates and found him 24 hours later at his mother’s home in Sibley, La.
Defense lawyer Walter Lesnevich disputes that his client could have made the trip to Louisiana without stopping, as prosecutors have suggested, and called upon doctors to talk about Ates’ physical limitations.
On Wednesday, Dr. Michael Farber, an internal medicine specialist at Hackensack University Medical Center called it “highly improbable” that Ates could have driven for 21 hours straight.
But under cross-examination by Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello, Farber said Ates’ weight doesn’t mean he can’t fire a gun.
“Basically he is obese, has some form of asthma, elevated blood pressure and diabetes,” Mello said. “Does any of that have to do with the ability to fire a weapon?”
“No,” Farber replied.
On Thursday, Mello questioned Ates about the fact that he shot at a snake during his trip to Louisiana. Their exchange didn’t explain exactly where or when Ates shot the snake, but Mello was trying to infer that Ates was an accurate shooter.
Mello also played a wiretapped phone call Ates made to his sister in Louisiana after Duncsak was killed. During the call, Ates repeatedly goes over the timing of events to make sure they agree.
“I just need to make sure we’re all saying the same thing when it comes to it,” Ates tells his sister. She has testified that she misled police about the day Ates arrived in Louisiana because her brother had asked her to lie.
Duncsak, a pharmaceutical executive, and Ates’ daughter were involved in a bitter custody dispute after their divorce.
Duncsak’s mother, Sophia, has said Ates became vengeful toward her son after Paul Duncsak refused to give his father-in-law $250,000 in 2003 to keep Ates’ struggling golf course in Okeechobee, Fla., afloat.