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The Morning Call Archives Copyright © 2009 The Morning Call

ID: 4402953 Publication Date: July 8, 2009 Day: Wednesday Page: A1 Edition: FIFTH Section: News Type: Local Dateline:

Column:

Length: medium

Byline: By Christopher Baxter OF THE MORNING CALL

Headline: Man charged in Nazareth homicide knew victim **Police say Mark Williams strangled Patrick O'Brien after they had argued in a bar.

A series of arguments inside a smoky Nazareth hotel bar one night last month led Mark Robert Williams to follow and later strangle Patrick O'Brien, police say, ending a long-standing feud between two local men who shared many friends but never got along.

"Imagine waking up one morning to find that one friend is dead and that it might have been another friend that did it," said Marty Jasniewicz, 36, who lived one floor above Williams in the American Hotel in Nazareth, where the arguments with O'Brien began.

Williams, 33, who Jasniewicz said is a "nice guy who always had an evil quirk," was charged Tuesday with the borough's first homicide in nearly 31 years and sent to Northampton County Prison without bail. Williams had been on probation for drug charges dating to September 2008.

Williams answered a few questions but otherwise sat quietly in the courtroom, his hands and ankles shackled. District Judge Todd Strohe of Bangor read the affidavit detailing the events that allegedly led Williams early June 14 to beat and strangle O'Brien, 33, in front of the home where he lived with his parents.

Both men frequented the hotel bar at 202 S. Main St., often showing up

alone, said bartender Charmaine Mularick. Police say another bartender, Donna Brown, heard the two men argue three times the night O'Brien died. Brown identified the black T-shirt with stick-figure ninja monkeys that Williams was wearing, the documents state, and that was later found with O'Brien's body.

The affidavit states Williams was asked to leave the bar after the third argument. Video surveillance shows him exiting at 1:56 a.m. June 14, followed minutes later by O'Brien. Cameras at various businesses show both men at different times walking separately north on S. Main Street toward O'Brien's house. The document does not detail what happened once they both arrived.

Later, a relative found O'Brien dead on his porch at 152 N. Main St. Police found signs of a struggle and deemed the death as "suspicious." Investigators later declared it a homicide. An autopsy determined O'Brien died of asphyxiation by strangulation.

O'Brien's parents, Francis and Rita O'Brien, could not be reached Tuesday for comment on Williams' arraignment.

Debra Arrington, another bartender at the American, said O'Brien often kept to himself as he sipped his usual Yuengling beer but was friendly with other people. He had been coming to the neighborhood bar for years and sometimes played a few games of pool and drank before walking home. Arrington said O'Brien, a 1993 graduate of Bethlehem Catholic High School, often spoke about his young daughter.

Williams lived above the bar in Room 10, where he has been staying for the past couple of years after leaving his parents' home because they "didn't see eye to eye,"Jasniewicz said. He and Williams lived together for about a year beginning in 1997, drinking, partying and "being typical young guys," he said.

But Jasniewicz said he noticed a big change in Williams when his older brother died some years ago. Williams, the middle child, thought his mother favored his younger brother and was not close with his father, Jasniewicz said. "He sometimes got this look like he wanted to just walk up and punch you in the face, but he never did. After he lost his brother, he got distant, faded in and out, sometimes seemed like he wasn't with you in the room."

Jasniewicz said Williams did not seem to have any medical problems, "though he seemed a little bipolar now and then. But who doesn't in this economy?" Williams told the judge Tuesday that he was recently

unemployed.

Williams was arrested and charged last year with drug and paraphernalia possession, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty in March and was serving up to a year's probation. A preliminary hearing on the homicide charge is scheduled for July 17 before District Judge John C. Capobianco of Nazareth.

christopher.baxter@mcall.com

610-778-2283

Reporters Michael Duck and Pamela Lehman contributed to this story.