ITHACA, N.Y. — A man connected to a fatal stabbing in Trumansburg earlier this year was sentenced to a six-month incarceration period on Friday in Tompkins County Court.
Gregory Fish, 32, pleaded guilty to felony third-degree burglary in March after police discovered he was involved in a burglary which led to the death of a man on Jan. 5. Judge John C. Rowley sentenced him to six months of incarceration with a five-year probation period on Friday.
Police say Fish, accompanied by Jennifer Ecker, 27, and Patrick Mutter, 35, broke into an apartment to confront a man named Eric T. Lynch, 40. Lynch had been charged with felony fourth-degree grand larceny after allegedly stealing $2,300 dollars from Ecker in 2016.
Ecker reported to Trumansburg police on Dec. 29, 2016 that Lynch had allegedly stolen the money from under her mattress, and later confronted Lynch about the money with a body camera provided by the Trumansburg Police Dept. After being charged, Lynch was later released on an appearance ticket.
According to court documents, Fish, Ecker, and Mutter arrived at the apartment just after 1 a.m. looking for Lynch, who was not home. The three allegedly forcibly entered the apartment and were confronted by Lynch’s roommate, Lee Kanellis.
Records show that a fight began after the three entered the apartment, and Kanellis defended himself with a knife. Mutter was fatally stabbed by Kanellis during the fight.
In court on Friday, prosecuting attorney Matt Van Houten described the January tragedy as a “senseless event.”
“Mr. Fish is lucky he was not harmed,” Van Houten said. “It causes significant concern that he does not seem to be accepting responsibility for his role in these events.”
Van Houten added that he was “disappointed that (Fish) refused to see this clearly.”
Attorney Kevin Jones, who represented Fish during the case, said he disagreed with Van Houten, explaining that the time spent with his client gave him a different take on the situation.
“He is certainly aware of the consequences – Patrick Mutter was his best friend,” Jones said. “In no way do I think that my client doesn’t understand the conduct was wrongful, which is why he entered the plea deal.”
Following Jones’ remarks, Fish addressed the courtroom with a prepared statement, in which he explained his remorse for the events.
“I am sorry for the decisions I made – decisions which could have easily cost my life,” Fish said. “Pat was my best friend, he was like a brother to me, and I did not decide to use all my effort to stop him…I’m sorry for any suffering I have caused.”
Fish added that he thought his decisions were affected by his drinking, which his lawyer also indicated. Jones brought to the court’s attention that Fish has no history of violence, but the only marks on his record were connected to drinking.
“He wants to continue his treatment, and I think a lot of good can come from drug treatment court,” Jones said.
Rowley described the description of the January events as “disturbing,” suggesting that Mutter seemed “enraged” in the event of the burglary and “didn’t show signs of calming down.”
In an earlier statement, Kanellis said, “I was pointing the knife in his direction. He comes at me like he is going to choke me, so I poked him in the side with the knife. He reeled back and got pissed. The guy jumped towards me and onto the knife. He pushes off the chair and stands up. He grabbed his side. I didn’t see any blood at that time.”
Kanellis is not facing any charges in connection with the stabbing.
“I don’t think your statement is sufficient,” Rowley said to Fish on Friday. “I don’t see you as a passive person who was following behind, and you continued to escalate by breaking the window.”
Rowley sentenced Fish to the maximum time according to his plea. “You have work to do in accepting your responsibility, and that does affect my decision,” he said. “Your drinking had been bringing you places you don’t want to be for years now and you’re not done with the consequences yet.”