Man killed after hitting his head following single punch

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A man accused of throwing the punch that led to the death of a 23-year-old man from Ayer, Massachusetts, over the summer will answer to the charges in court next month.

Maxwell “Max” Fleming, who witnesses say hit his head on concrete after being punched, died after spending a week in the hospital.

Matthew Kurz, who is accused of throwing the single punch on Aug. 31, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and battery and assault and battery with a deadly weapon.


The victim’s fiancee told police the punch followed an incident the day before in which Kurz pulled her by the hair. She told Fleming, and he began discussing the incident with Kurz.

“Maxwell and Matthew had exchanged conversation regarding this matter either through Snapchat or text message and they agreed to meet at the Fredonian Nature Center,” the probable cause statement from the Shirley Police Department says. “(Maxwell’s fiancee) explained that Maxwell was not even mad and could not understand why Matthew was so mad.”

Around 10:30 p.m., Fleming was already at the Fredonian Nature Center in Shirley, standing by the gazebo, which has a concrete base and step, when Kurz showed up, the document states.

“Maxwell stepped out from the gazebo and said, ‘What’s up, Mattie?’” Fleming’s fiancee told police. “Matthew came sprinting up to Maxwell and punched him in the face... Maxwell did not even have a moment to react... He fell backwards and struck his head on the concrete step. Maxwell was completely knocked unconscious.”

Friends loaded Fleming into one of their cars and drove to his fiancée’s nearby house. They then called police.

Doctors removed part of Fleming’s skull to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain. Bruised and broken, he remained on a breathing tube, in a neck brace, attached to monitors, as his family stood by, but Max Fleming never woke up.

"There was some severe brain damage, and he lingered in the hospital in critical condition in a coma for seven days. He passed away on Sept. 7th," his father, Rob Fleming, said. "It's a hard loss. He was only 23 and, you know, I think about him all the time. He was a good guy."

Rob Fleming visits his son’s grave at the cemetery twice daily, drinking his coffee there as he mourns the family’s tremendous loss.

He and his son were close, always confiding in each other. Max was a great fisherman, an animal lover and a talented artist, beloved by his brothers, friends and co-workers, his father said, in tears.

“I didn’t really know anybody who had anything bad to say about him. So, he was a very likable person,” Rob Fleming said of his son. “I miss him quite a bit.”

Kurz was arrested and later released from jail as he awaits a Dec. 7 appearance in Ayer District Court. Rob Fleming is disappointed Kurz is out on the street and hopes Kurz’s charges are upgraded to manslaughter and that he is convicted and sentenced.

“I do personally feel that he should be inside looking at a cell wall, as opposed to being outside and being able to enjoy the outside and freedom of movement and whatnot,” Rob Fleming said. “My son’s in the ground, and he’s walking around.”

WFXT could not reach Kurz for comment. His mother declined to comment at her home, saying only that the incident has been difficult for both families.

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