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Jury rejects obesity defense in murder trial

Edward Ates had argued that he didn’t have the energy to accurately shoot Duncsak from a perch on the staircase. Edward Ates had argued that he didn’t have the energy to accurately shoot Duncsak from a perch on the staircase. (Associated Press)
Associated Press / November 7, 2009

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HACKENSACK, N.J. - A jury rejected a Florida man’s claims that he was too fat to have run up and down a flight of stairs and killed his former son-in-law, convicting him yesterday of murder.

Edward Ates looked down and shook his head in court as he was found guilty of murder and weapons counts for killing Paul Duncsak, a 40-year-old pharmaceutical executive who was shot six times in August 2006.

The panel of eight women and four men issued its verdict after a trial that lasted more than a month.

Ates, 62, had argued that he didn’t have the energy to accurately shoot Duncsak from a perch on the staircase at Duncsak’s home in Ramsey, about 25 miles northwest of New York, and make a quick getaway to Louisiana. Ates weighed 285 pounds at the time.

Defense attorney Walter Lesnevich said they would immediately appeal the verdict.

Prosecutors said Ates drove from his home in Fort Pierce, Fla., to Duncsak’s home in Ramsey in August 2006. They said he climbed a staircase and shot him as he returned from work. At the time, Duncsak and Ates’s daughter were involved in a bitter custody dispute after their divorce.