Prosecutors have charged William "Rex" Fowler with first-degree murder stemming from the December 30, 2009, fatal shooting of Thomas Ciancio inside Fowler Software Design.
During opening statements, Adams County prosecutor Yvette Werner told a freshly-seated jury that Fowler shot Ciancio three times inside Fowler's office.
"Three gunshot wounds to the head. Three pulls of the trigger. Three decisions to kill," Werner said.
Ciancio had chosen to resign from his position at Fowler Software Design a month earlier. The one-time Chief Operating Officer had grown convinced the company was headed in the wrong financial direction following, in part, Fowler's decision to donate $175,000 from the company's coffers to the Church of Scientology, of which he was a long-time member.
Judge Francis Wasserman has ordered both sides not to make the Church of Scientology a legal issue during the course of the trial. Werner generically referred to the Church simply as "an organization that supported the defendant's beliefs" during the course of her opening statements.
Prosecutors say on the day of the shooting, Ciancio came to the company on the assumption Fowler was going to hand him a nearly $10,000 settlement check.
"This was a relief. This is Mr. Ciancio's mindset when he goes," Werner said.
Fowler's defense appears to hinge largely on his state of mind at the time of the shooting.
"In 2009, Mr. Fowler was faced with the realization that his company was on the verge of failure," said defense attorney Sara Strufing. "For Mr. Fowler, this was too much to handle."
He intended to kill himself that day, Strufing says.
"His plan that day was to take his own life and no one else's," she said.
Yet, apparently on that day, Ciancio showed up at the company a bit early, Strufing says.
"When Ciancio walks into Mr. Fowler's office, he interrupted Mr. Fowler's plan to kill himself," she said.
Fowler did end up shooting himself shortly after he shot Ciancio, but survived his serious wounds.
"It was not with intent. It was not with deliberation. He is not guilty of first-degree murder," Strufing said.
It appears to be a clear decision on Fowlers defense's part to secure a conviction on a lesser charge.
The trial is expected to last into next week.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)