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‘That One Punch Ruined Two Lives’

November 18, 2017

AYER -- Matthew Kurz agreed to speak to police about an incident in which he allegedly punched a 23-year-old Ayer man who then fell backward, struck his head on a cement step, and died about a week later.

“Matthew said that one punch ruined two lives,” Shirley police Detective Olivia Siekman wrote in a police report.

Kurz, 28, of Ayer, is facing felony assault charges in Ayer District Court in connection with the Aug. 31 incident in which he allegedly punched Maxwell Fleming, of Ayer, during a dispute over Kurz’s behavior toward Fleming’s fiancée.

But Fleming died of his injuries on Sept. 7, and Kurz may now face indictment on more serious charges in connection with the death of a man whom Kurz described as a friend.

Shirley police say Kurz ran up to Fleming and punched him once in the face at the Fredonian Nature Center Shirley.

The punch knocked Fleming down, and Fleming struck his head on a concrete step when he fell, according to police reports.

Fleming was taken to Nashoba Valley Medical Center, then flown by helicopter to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester with a head injury that claimed his life, according to police reports and an obituary.

Several witnesses spoke to police to describe what happened, and Kurz too gave police a statement in which he admitted to hitting with Fleming with a “haymaker” punch that landed on Fleming’s jaw, according to a police report.

Kurz spoke to police while Fleming was still alive and in the hospital, according to a police report.

“Matthew became upset and had started crying as he spoke about how bad he feels knowing that Maxwell is laid up in a hospital bed having parts of skull removed. Matthew told me they were friends and that they have gone fishing together and he never would have wanted something like this to happen,” Siekman wrote in a police report.

Friends of the two, including Fleming’s fiancée, told police that Fleming was knocked unconscious, according to police reports.

Fleming had asked Kurz to meet him at the nature center to discuss and earlier incident in which Kurz allegedly behaved inappropriately toward Fleming’s fiancée in messages sent on Snapchat, and then pulled her hair during another incident.

Kurz, though, told police he had not pulled the woman’s hair and simply “did a little hair rub in a joking manner,” according to a police report.

Kurz also claimed in his statement to police that he threw the “haymaker” because he noticed that Fleming had both his fists clenched as Kurz approached him, according to a police report.

Fleming leaves his father, Robert Fleming, of Ayer, two brothers, his fiancé, and other relatives, according to an obituary.

Robert Fleming could not be reached for comment, but spoke briefly with Boston 25 News last week.

“It’s a hard loss. He was only 23, and you know, I think about him all the time,” the station quoted Robert Fleming as saying. “He was a good guy.”

Fleming told the station his son was a great fisherman, animal lover, and talented artist.

Maxwell Fleming’s obituary says he worked as a metal worker at the Valley Design Company in Shirley.

Kurz’s attorney, Joanne Daley, did not return a message seeking comment.

Kurz was arrested on a warrant after voluntarily going to the Shirley police station to speak to police on Sept. 2, according to a police report.

At his Sept. 5 arraignment on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, Kurz was initially held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing.

But following that hearing, Judge Margaret Guzman released Kurz on the condition he live with his sister, remain employed, wear a GPS monitoring device, abide by a curfew, stay away from and have no contact with any witnesses or the victim’s family, and wear an electronic devices that can detect whether he drinks alcohol, according to court records.

Kurz is due back in Ayer District Court for a hearing on Dec. 7, though court records indicate Kurz’s appearance at that hearing will be waived if he his indicted prior to it occurring.

Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, said an investigation into the incident remains ongoing, and that charges may be upgraded as the investigation continues.

Follow Robert Mills on Twitter @Robert_Mills