In the three or four hours before the accident in Darien that took the life of a Dansville girl, Ronald J. Wendt may have drank as many as six beers, a longtime friend of his testified today.
Thirty-five-year-old William D. Marchisin, who says he's known Wendt for a number of years, was called by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman to testify about what he and Wendt did in the hours leading up to the Aug. 14, 2009 accident.
The day started at 11 a.m. at Marchisin's house and included a pizza lunch at about 1 p.m. The two men then went to a neighbor's barn to remove a grain bin and then spent the next several hours baling hay.
According to Marchisin, Wendt brought along a cooler that contained six Arizona Ice Teas and six beers. The two men drank three beers apiece before leaving the field, then at two more at the VFW Hall in Alexander, and then one more in Attica while waiting for their wings to be cooked at a pizza shop there.
Under cross examination by Wendt's defense attorney, Thomas Burns, it came out that Marchisin has given different versions of the events that day.
In one interview with investigators, he even lied under oath -- he admitted this in court today -- about even being at the accident scene.
In his first interview with investigator William Ferrando, Marchisin said that Wendt dropped him off at home before Wendt drove to My Saloon (the accident occurred in front of the bar on Broadway Road in Darien). A few minutes later, Marchisin gave a new sworn statement saying that he was in the truck when it was struck by a car driven by Rachel Enderle.
Marchisin said he was scared during the Aug. 18 meeting with Ferrando, which is why he lied.
As for when he and Wendt had their first beer, Marchisin has given different time lines. In Grand Jury testimony, he said 7 p.m. Today, he said under direct examination that it was 8 p.m., but later testified that it might have been 15 or 20 minutes after 7 p.m.
Marchisin also admitted that he left the scene of the accident as soon as ambulances arrived.
He described the post-accident scene as chaos, with people yelling and screaming, and bar patrons mobbing the scene, bringing out drinks, including beer bottles, and setting them on the car and truck.
"I stood there on the curb," Marchisin said. "I stood there and I don’t want to say 'awed,' but dazzled, and I considered the scene secured, I guess, and I told Ron, 'I can’t handle it anymore,' and I walked home."
Marchisin lives about a mile from where the accident occurred.
Wendt's friend did not testify about the accident itself and may be called back to the stand on another day to testify about what he saw and heard.
First on the stand today was Ferrando, who photographed the accident scene and authenticated the pictures as evidence.
Among the pictures, are two that show a LaBatt's Blue beer box in Wendt's pickup bed and what appeared to be a Blue beer can on the ground next to the truck.
Also on the stand for a brief time was Gabby Mahus, who was a passenger, sitting behind the driver, in the car that hit Wendt's truck.
She broke down when describing the accident scene and Katie Stanley being taken from the car, apparently not breathing. Judge Robert Noonan authorized a short recess so she compose herself, but Friedman had only two more questions for her when she came back.
We'll have coverage of the afternoon testimony later.