The trial of a Charlottesville man charged with murdering his estranged wife has again been continued following the appointment of a new defense attorney.
James Elliott Fitch, 60, was arrested in November 2020 following the slaying of his wife, Yvette Fitch.
Though Fitch’s trial was initially set to begin last September, the trial was delayed after the defendant requested a new attorney, according to court records. The trial was then reset to begin on Feb. 16 but was again delayed for the same reason, with Fitch receiving his third court-appointed attorney.
The three-day jury trial has now been continued to Sept. 6 in Albemarle County Circuit Court.
Although the case has yet to go to trial, a transcript from a May 2021 preliminary hearing in Albemarle County Juvenile and Domestic Court sheds some light on the commonwealth’s case against Fitch.
Evidence presented during preliminary hearings is not as detailed as evidence presented during a circuit court trial and is used by a court to consider whether the Commonwealth has enough evidence to establish probable cause
According to evidence presented during Fitch’s preliminary hearing by Holly Vradenburgh, Albemarle assistant commonwealth’s attorney, Yvette Fitch was pronounced dead on the evening of Nov. 21, 2020 after suffering two gunshot wounds to the head.
She had been working as an at-home nurse. Several witnesses were called during the preliminary hearing to testify to the events surrounding the incident.
Per the transcript, on the night of Nov. 21, Yvette Fitch’s employer said she had been working the evening shift and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. As her employer walked by the window, she said she saw arms extended and pointed toward Yvette Fitch’s head and then heard a gunshot.
James Fitch’s sister was also called as a witness and, according to the transcript of her testimony, said her brother told her that he did not kill his wife but was in possession of a gun that he had hidden at Jordan Park.
She later communicated this information to the Albemarle County Police Department, which uncovered a .22-caliber revolver.
Andrew Holmes, lead investigator on the case, testified that he was contacted by James Fitch on the night after his wife’s death and then interviewed him at the police department.
According to Holmes’ testimony, Fitch told him that he and his wife were estranged and had not been living together for several months. They were going through a divorce, Holmes said in the transcript, which was a result of accusations that Yvette Fitch had been romantically involved with other men.
Fitch also described videos in his possession that depicted his wife in situations that confirmed her infidelity.
“He was very agitated in discussing [the videos],” Holmes said in the hearing. “Animated with his hands, and indicated to me that those actions and his knowledge of them made him mad, pissed him off.”
Holmes also testified that Fitch confirmed he knew where Yvette Fitch worked. He claimed to have been shopping at the time of the shooting, Holmes testified, but was unable to provide any specific details such as where he shopped and what he purchased.
The final witness called was police Detective Mike Belew, who testified that he found a .22-caliber revolver wrapped in a white shirt in Jordan Park. According to the transcript, Belew testified that, upon examination of the revolver, it was determined that two chambers were empty. Additionally, he said there was evidence that three of the rounds were struck at the primer, though one round had misfired and not left the revolver.
Vradenburgh argued that the situation is “a classic means, motive and opportunity” case that, at the point of the hearing, the commonwealth believed to meet the probable cause standard.
“I think the most compelling evidence that we have here today is the fact that after he came to the police, he told his sister where he had discarded his gun, wrapped in a shirt, by his house and the police found it right where he said it was going to be with two shots missing,” Vradenburgh said, according to the transcript. “The victim died as a result of two gunshot wounds to the head.”
As a result of the preliminary hearing, a second-degree murder charge against Fitch was certified and a grand jury handed down an indictment in June.
According to court records, Fitch now also faces a first-degree murder charge and a charge for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.