OCEAN CITY — New details emerged this week in the manslaughter case against two local men charged for their alleged roles in the death of a Pennsylvania man found unresponsive and unconscious in a downtown hotel parking lot in August.
A new surveillance video was released this week that chronicles the events from when the victim and two other individuals arrived at the hotel in a taxi to the time he was taken by ambulance to AGH.
Around 3 a.m. on Aug. 24, Ocean City Police and Emergency Services responded to a hotel parking lot on 2nd Street for a reported assault that had already occurred. Upon arrival, OCPD officers found the victim, later identified as Justin D. Cancelliere, 37, of North Whitehall, Pa., unconscious and unresponsive. First responders from the OCPD and Ocean City Fire Department initiated emergency lifesaving procedures on the victim and transported him to AGH where he was later pronounced deceased. An autopsy was performed and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled to nature of Cancelliere’s injuries as head and neck trauma and the cause of death a homicide.
After an investigation, OCPD detectives determined the assault occurred during an altercation in the area of Talbot Street and Baltimore Ave. Two suspects identified as Caleb Edwin-Earl Ochse, 27, of Ocean City, and Christopher Blake Kendall, 22, of Ocean City, have been charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, affray, disorderly conduct and alcoholic beverage-did endanger for their alleged roles in the confrontation.
A surveillance video obtained by The Dispatch shows what appears to be an initial contact between the defendants and the victim and his party, including a cousin and friends, at the Fat Daddy’s restaurant and ends with Cancelliere and his group following Ochse and Kendall out of the restaurant.
A second video obtained this week shows the victim apparently still unconscious being removed from a taxi at the hotel parking lot on 2nd Street and OCPD officers and eventually paramedics arriving on the scene and treating Cancelliere before taking him to AGH where he was ultimately pronounced deceased. What is uncertain, however, and what will likely be the crux of the case against Ochse and Kendall, is what happened in between. Those details will likely be largely ferreted from witness testimony, but the two videos paint a bookend picture of what happened on either end of the alleged fatal confrontation.
After the alleged physical confrontation, Cancelliere’s cousin and friends were able to get him into a taxi, which took one of them and an unidentified woman to the Plim Plaza Hotel a few blocks north. From the beginning, it has been uncertain if someone in the victim’s group called 911 after the altercation or after the cab arrived back at the hotel. It is also uncertain if Cancelliere’s group called 911 or the call for Emergency Services came from an unattached third party of witness. However, the hotel surveillance video obtained by The Dispatch this week at least fills in some of the blanks in the timeline.
The hotel surveillance video begins at around 3:02 a.m. on Aug. 24 and shows the taxi pulling into the parking area at the Plim Plaza. An unidentified woman, who may or may not be the same female seen with the defendants at the end of the earlier video from Fat Daddy’s quickly gets out from the passenger side front seat and comes around to the rear driver’s side. The cab driver gets out to lend assistance, as does another unidentified man, who pulls an unconscious Cancelliere from the taxi and holds the victim’s head in his lap in the parking lot at around 3:04 a.m.
At 3:05 a.m., others arrive on the scene, presumably members of the victim’s group from Fat Daddy’s who returned on foot. At 3:10 a.m., the cab exits, leaving the victim lying in the parking lot with other members of his group around him. Oddly, other people not associated with the incident return to the hotel and walk by the scene of the unconscious victim on the parking lot, as does at least one other vehicle.
Around 3:12 a.m., a pizza delivery driver arrives and makes his delivery at the hotel. When leaving, the pizza delivery driver sees the victim lying in the parking lot with others surrounding him and runs from the parking area presumably to find a police officer. At 3:13 a.m., at least one of the members of the group is scene pumping on the victim’s chest in an apparent attempt at lifesaving. It is interesting to note there was not an apparent sense of urgency when the cab first arrived at the hotel, but that urgency escalated as the minutes ticked by.
At 3:14 a.m., two OCPD bike officers arrive on the scene and a marked OCPD vehicle arrives about a minute later. About a minute after that, an Ocean City EMS ambulance arrives and EMTs begin treating the victim. The victim is loaded onto the ambulance at around 3:18 a.m. and the ambulance leaves for AGH around 3:35 a.m. The video shows OCPD officers still on the scene questioning witnesses and filling out reports at 4:45 a.m.
Again, it’s uncertain what allegedly occurred between the seemingly innocuous encounter between the victim and his group and the defendants at Fat Daddy’s and the arrival of the cab at the downtown hotel, but the latest video obtained by The Dispatch paints a picture of the victim’s arrival of the cab at the downtown hotel and the subsequent arrival of the police and EMTs.
The first video from Fat Daddy’s shows Ochse enter the restaurant at around 2:30 a.m. followed by Kendall a short time later. Not long after that, Cancelliere and his group including three companions, one of which is his cousin, enter the restaurant. The four men apparently order food and sit down at a booth somewhat across from Ochse’s and Kendall’s table on a diagonal. What follows is a long sequence of comings and goings, although the tape clearly shows Cancelliere staring in the direction of Ocshe and Kendall.
About a half an hour after their arrival, Ochse and Kendall get up from their table and exit the restaurant through the front door along with an unidentified female. Cancelliere and his group get up from their booth immediately after Ochse and Kendall leave and essentially follow them out the door. The video clearly shows Ochse, Kendall and the female pass by the restaurant’s front windows with Cancelliere and his group close behind.
The first video ends at that point and it is uncertain what happened next, although according to police reports, there was a physical confrontation between the two groups on Talbot Street between Baltimore Ave. and the Boardwalk. The hotel video obtained by The Dispatch shows the cab arriving a short time later and again, it is uncertain what happened in between.
Meanwhile, two months have passed since the incident and Ochse’s parents claim they are still attempting to obtain more information about the case from the State’s Attorney’s Office. In a release issued last week, the defendant’s parents allege the State’s Attorney’s Office has been dragging its feet in releasing information about the details of the case.
The discovery process in any case is meticulous and time consuming, and reportedly the State’s Attorney’s Office and defense attorney Mike Farlow, who is representing Ochse, are working through the process. Both parties have said they are meticulously working through the discovery phase. For its part, the State’s Attorney’s Office is judicially and ethically bound not to discuss the case publicly and through the media, a spokesman reminded this reporter last week. The State’s Attorney’s Office has said unofficially in the past they are not motivated by anything other than finding out the facts of the case and prosecuting those responsible.
While the discovery phase is ongoing, late last week Ochse’s defense team entered several motions for subpoena of tangible evidence seeking among other things, the AGH records, the Worcester County EMS records, the Ocean City EMS records, the Medical Examiner’s test results, the Ocean City Communication records and the OCPD records. However, no ruling on those motions had been made as of early this week. A motions hearing has been set for Dec. 2 on the cases for each defendant, with a tentative trial date in both cases set for Jan. 7.