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October 4, 2010 - 12:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, alexander, pembroke, Alabama.

Tyrone N. Thigpen, 33, of 9 South Lyon St., Batavia, and Robert L. Williams Jr., 20, of 25 Harvester Ave., Batavia, are charged with disorderly conduct. Thigpen and Williams are accused of fighting on Pringle Avenue at 3:10 a.m., Saturday.

Paul D. Barth Jr., 19, of Cohocton Road, Pembroke, is charged with petit larceny. Barth is accused of stealing merchandise while employed at Kmart. The alleged thefts occurred between July through September.

Lynn Ann Hertweck, 42, of Reed Road, Churchville, is charged with a felony count of DWI, aggravated DWI (driving with a BAC of .18 or greater) and improper left turn. Hertweck was stopped in the area of 30 Hunter St., Bergen, at 1:54 a.m., Sunday, by Deputy Howard Carlson.

Richard J. Kubus, 30, of 25 Vine St., Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Kubus is accused of attempting to steal a grocery cart full of merchandise from Tops Market in Le Roy. The total value is reportedly $401.69.

Trevor D. Cliff, 19, of Avon, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, operating a motor vehicle without an inspection certificate and speeding. Cliff was stopped by State Police at 8:28 p.m., Saturday, on Townline Road in Alabama.

Donald I. Wagner, 61, of Pavilion, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and failure to use designated lane. Wagner was stopped by State Police at 10:55 p.m. on Court Road, Covington.

A 17-year-old from Attica is accused of petit larceny from a location in Alexander. The youth was arrested by State Police at 1:39 p.m., Thursday. No further details released.

Follow up to an accident we reported Friday: Injured, Nikkolas M. Bruner, 52, of Basom.

Follow up to "wanted" post for Deborah Compton: Compton was taken into custody Saturday at her residence and released on $1,500 bail.

October 4, 2010 - 11:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield, Le Roy.

From the files of unsolved murders and mysterious deaths:

Bill Fickel, 2005: Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster believes he has a suspect, but needs more evidence to make a case. Brewster is looking for a second person he believes was outside Fickel's Oakfield home when Fickel was shot to death. Brewster's potential suspect is Steven Patrick Rebert, a former Oakfield resident who is a suspect in a double homicide in Pennsylvania. Brewster is hoping the second person will come forward and provide the additional information investigators may need to make the case.

"If we're going to get a conviction, we need more than a belief that this is the person who did it," Brewster said.

Kisha Sullivan, 2002: We spoke with Brewster about the Sullivan case in July, and Brewster said the eight-year-old cold case had recently become active He said there was a person identified who could be Sullivan's killer. Not much has changed since July. There is a man in Rochester that Brewster suspects killed Sullivan. He has reportedly told associates he did it, but nobody will come forward and help investigators put together a solid case. "Everybody is afraid of him," Brewster said. The Rochester police are aware of the suspect and the investigation and doing what they can to help.

Deborah Maniace, August 2010: Maniace's body was found next to the train tracks under the Route 33 bridge in Stafford. We asked Brewster about rumors that Maniace had information about meth dealing in Batavia and that this may be tied to her death. He laughed and said, "(Rumors) are just that." The rumors were checked out, Brewster said, and came to nothing. As recently as last week, investigators questioned Maniace's boyfriend, whom Brewster described as cooperative and somebody investigators are still looking at.

October 1, 2010 - 12:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.


An individual was arrested on Main Street a few minutes ago. He was apparently wanted on a warrant out of Wyoming County. There is no further information available at this time, and Officer Eric Hill said the department does not usually put out press releases on out-of-county arrest warrants, so there may be no further information available.

October 1, 2010 - 11:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, byron.

Adam W. McGill, 32, of Medina, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, criminal use of drug paraphernalia (scales), 2nd, and unlawful possession of marijuana. McGill was arrested by State Police in the Town of Batavia at 10 p.m., Wednesday. Arrested at the same time and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), 5th, was Dianne M. Gallegher, 41, of Shelby.

Ann K. Pokornowski, 50, of 520 Ellicott St., Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. Lauren K. Pellegrino, 28, of 129 Jackson St., Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Pokornowski and Pellegrino are suspected of becoming involved in a dispute over a mobile phone. Pokornowski allegedly damaged Pellegrino's phone and Pellegrino allegedly pushed Pokornowski.

Donald F. Stillwagon II, 25, of 142 Pearl St., Batavia, is charged with felony assault, 2nd, obstructing governmental administration and harassment, 2nd. This list of charges is a correction issued by Batavia PD on a report from yesterday.

David W. Wells, 21, of Bergen, is charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation, moving from lane unsafely, failure to stay in designated lane, speed in excess of conditions, violation of a conditional license. Wells was arrested by State Police at Strong Memorial Hospital for the alleged violations that reportedly occurred at 2:26 a.m., Sept. 17, in the Town of Byron. No further details were released.

September 30, 2010 - 5:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt.

When 25-year-old Ronald J. Wendt, convicted Monday of aggravated vehicular homicide and 10 other charges, is sentenced Nov. 15, Genesee County Judge Robert C. Noonan will have a range of sentencing options.

Under statute, each felony and misdemeanor carries its own sentencing guidelines, but all of the sentences will likely be served concurrently.

Here are the charges and sentencing options:

  1. Driving While Intoxicated as a misdemeanor: 1 year maximum;
  2. Driving While Intoxicated, per se, as a misdemeanor (i.e., driving with a BAC of .08 or greater): 1 year maximum;
  3. Vehicular Manslaughter, 2nd, a Class D felony: 1 to 3 years, minimum; 2 1/3 to 7 maximum;
  4. Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, a Class B felony (referred to as the "top count"): 1 to 3 minimum, 8 1/3 to 25 years maximum;
  5. Manslaughter, 2nd, a Class C felony: 1 to 3 minimum, 5 to 15 maximum;
  6. Vehicular assault, 2nd, a Class E felony: 1 to 3 minimum, 1 1/3 to 4 years maximum;
  7. Aggravated Vehicular Assault, a Class C felony: 1 to 3 minimum, 5 to 15 maximum;
  8. Assault, 2nd, a Class D felony: Minimum 2 years, maximum 7 years;
  9. Vehicular Assault, 2nd, a Class E felony: 1 to 3 minimum, 1 1/3 to 4 years maximum;
  10. Assault, 2nd, a Class D felony: Minimum 2 years, maximum 7 years;
  11. Assault, 3rd, a misdemeanor: 1 year maximum.

On a count like aggravated vehicular manslaughter, Noonan could pick the one to three range, and it would mean Wendt would be eligible for parole after one year. If Noonan gave Wendt the maximum under that charge, Wendt would be eligible for parole after eight-and-one-third years. He couldn't serve more than 25 years.

Noonan could also set a range within the minimum and maximum.

Given that Count #8 and Count #10 carry minimum two year sentences, Wendt would have to serve at least two years in prison, even if Noonan picked a lower range on the higher class felonies.

Some key cases that have come before Noonan for sentencing in the past year:

  • Scott F. Doll, convicted of beating to death Joseph Benaquist: Doll received 15 years to life. Noonan could have sent Doll to jail for 25 years to life, but said it didn't seem right to lock Doll up for the rest of his life when younger men convicted of the same crime would be getting out of jail in their 50s.
  • Thomas Wallace, who admitted to watching porn while driving his truck just as he plowed into a disabled car on the Thruway, killing an Amherst mother, received a three to nine year prison term.
  • Dennis M. Abrams, the mastermind of robbing an M&T Bank branch in Elba, where he and his accomplices terrorized the tellers, received a 13 1/2 year sentence.
September 30, 2010 - 2:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, crime, Suzanne Corona.


UPDATED: 2:43 p.m.

Shortly before 2 p.m., Batavia police descended upon South Beach restaurant downtown after receiving a call that a patron suspected of attempting to steal food had trashed the lunch buffet.

Suzanne Corona, 41, the woman who made headlines a few months ago for having sexual conduct with a man at a local park, leading to a rare charge of adultery, was allegedly observed filling baggies in her purse with food items from the lunch buffet.

Louie Kingsbury, an employee of South Beach owner Ken Mistler, was summoned to the restaurant and he confronted Corona.

He said at first Corona denied taking anything and started showing him empty pockets in her purse, but then food allegedly fell out of the main compartment.

"At that point, I gave her two choices," Kingsbury said. "Either you can pay extra for the food, or I'm calling the cops. She got unruly, so I said I was calling the cops."

Then, Kingsbury said, Corona allegedly started to dump the baggies full of food back into the buffet, so he had to try to restrain her.

In the tussle, according to Kingsbury, Corona fell over a chair.

Mistler had to have all of the food in the buffet dumped out. Police asked for a retail estimate of the food's value.

Corona reportedly came into the restaurant with another woman and they sat at a booth, but did not order any food before Corona approach the buffet. The other woman is not believed to have been involved.

Officer Ed Mileham said Corona has not yet been arrested, but charges are pending.

Mercy EMS was called to the scene. Corona reportedly complained of back pain. She was seen holding the back of her head and neck. She was transported to UMMC.

Howard Owens contributed to this story.

September 30, 2010 - 9:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A Pearl Street resident was jailed without bail last night after allegedly biting a Batavia Police officer on his arm.

The officer, Sgt. John Peck, was treated and released at UMMC.

Charged with assault, 2nd, and resisting arrest was Donald F. Stillwagon II, 25, of 142 Pearl St., Batavia. (Charges modified to: felony assault 2nd, obstructinog governmental administration and harassment 2nd.)

The incident began at 10:13 p.m. with a report of a family domestic problem at that address. Stillwagon was reportedly involved in a fight with another family member and at one time was allegedly choking the other family member. He was then restrained by a family member when police arrived.

Peck attempted to arrest Stillwagon, which is when the suspect allegedly bit Peck, causing a pretty deep cut, according to Detective Pat Corona.

Police have recently responded to other calls at this residence, Corona said.

The incident remains under investigation and additional charges may be pending.

Sheriff's deputies and state troopers assisted in the incident.

September 29, 2010 - 10:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A Batavia Police officer was reportedly bit on the arm after responding to a reported fight at 142 Pearl St.

The incident originated as a 9-1-1 call from a female who said two people were fighting (we think, two men). One of the subjects was reportedly on top of the other at one point choking him.

A short time after police arrived, an officer requested an ambulance for a reported injury to a police officer.

Mercy EMS is in route.

September 28, 2010 - 3:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt II.

UPDATED at 5:04 p.m.

ron_wendt_outside_court.jpgRonald J. Wendt II, 25, of Alexander, is guilty of DWI and aggravated vehicular homicide in the death of 18-year-old Katie Stanley on Aug. 14, 2009, a Genesee County jury concluded today.

The jury also convicted Wendt of the nine other counts against him, including vehicular manslaughter, 2nd, which carries a possible 25-year prison term.

The jury deliberated less than two hours after hearing more than four days of testimony in which defense attorney Thomas Burns tried to establish that Wendt wasn't legally intoxicated at the time of the accident and that the actions of the driver of the other car, Rachel Enderle, 27, of Dansville, contributed to the accident.

"I don't want to get into anything about the case other than to say I'm disappointed in the verdict," Burns said. "That's about all I have to say."

While the speed of the verdict surprised Burns, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the quick decision shows the people had a solid case on all charges against Wendt.

"I'm very pleased for Katie's family and the other victims of the crash," Friedman said. "Justice was served."

In the hours before the accident, Wendt worked with a friend baling hay in Attica. Toward the end of the workday, they began drinking beer. According to William D. Marchisin, 35, of Darien, Wendt and he each had as many as six beers prior to the accident, including one about 15 minutes beforehand.

The duo was going to stop off at My Saloon for "just one more" when Wendt decided to make a left-hand turn off Route 20 right in front of Enderle's oncoming car.

Stanley, also of Dansville, was riding in the right rear passenger seat.

Friedman acknowledged that people drink and drive in Genesee County every day and they rarely wind up involved in a fatal car accident.

"Obviously, the vast majority believe nothing like this happens, but that's the reason we have these laws," Friedman said. "I'm sure this defendant never expected anything like this could ever happen to him, but that's what the problem is, you never know. Anybody who is driving while intoxicated could find themselves in this situation."

Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Nov. 15. Friedman said he hasn't even started to think about a sentencing recommendation.

Burns said there will be an appeal, but as is his policy, he won't represent Wendt in the appeal.

Photo: File photo of Ron Wendt.

September 28, 2010 - 1:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt.

Whether Rachel Enderle was speeding, or not, or how attentive she was to her driving, doesn't really matter, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman told the jury in closing arguments of the Ronald J. Wendt manslaughter trial.

Wendt's conduct the night of Aug. 14, 2009 was a crucial link in a chain of events that led to a tragic accident. The jury need only find that without Wendt's conduct, the accident would never have occurred.

"If this defendant had not been drinking throughout the day, throughout the evening and throughout the night, Katie Stanley would still be alive," Friedman said. "If he hadn’t felt the need for one more beer and turned in front of that car, Katie Stanley would still be alive."

Defense attorney Thomas Burns argued forcefully in his closing remarks that the evidence does not support the charge that Wendt was driving drunk, nor that he should have reasonably concluded that by making that fateful left turn, an accident would have occurred.

The Sheriff's Office never investigated other factors in the crash, Burns argued, but immediately concluded that Wendt was at fault.

"So the singular focus is what I submit to you is what this trial is ultimately about," Burns said. "How else do we explain, for example, when we know that Mr. Fox said he was speeding, that he was not issued a traffic citation?

"When evidence suggests that Mr. Fox was directly behind Ms. Enderle and that she would have been speeding, there is no suggestion that she was issued a traffic citation in this case. How else do we explain resistance from police witnesses to common law evidence and how the Datamaster can be interpreted as to non-intoxication rather than simply intoxication?"

Wendt's BAC at the time of the accident may every well have been below .08, Burns argued, pointing out the rate of absorption possible would mean his last beer would have been hitting his system just about the time the test was administered.

Friedman, in his more than hour-long remarks, pointed out that absorption into Wendt's blood would have started when he took his first sip of that last beer, not when he finished it. Also, some of the alcohol in his system from his day of drinking would have been leaving his system at the same time.

Wendt's BAC at the time of the accident, Friedman said, could actually have been above .08.

Burns, also taking more than an hour to make his case, argued that the Datamaster is not reliable and like any machine, prone to error, but Friedman said breath tests go back to the 1950s and are standard tools for measuring BAC in criminal cases.

There's no evidence, Friedman said, that the Datamaster is any less reliable than a direct blood test. The results of the Datamaster are a person's actual BAC, not an estimate, as Burns had said, according to Friedman.

Burns also called into question the results of the field sobriety test given to Wendt by Deputy Tim Wescott at the scene. Burns was critical of the lack of consideration for any possible injuries Wendt might have suffered in the violent collision, that his fatigue was a factor and his heavy boots were a factor.

Also, Burns said, since the field test wasn't video recorded, the only record of Wendt's performance on the test was Wescott's memory.

Friedman countered that Wescott was an experienced law officer, that since his report also contained information on the parts of the test Wendt passed, and that by Wendt's own conduct and remarks prior to the test, Wescott's testimony was credible.

Friedman argued that the facts of the case clearly demonstrate that Wendt was intoxicated at the time of the crash and that even though he could clearly see a car right in front of him, he turned in front of it without stopping first and without using his turn signal. 

"I would suggest to you that the defense has tried very hard to complicate a very straightforward case," Friedman said.

The jury is beginning deliberations this afternoon.

If convicted of all charges, the 25-year-old Wendt could face up to 25 years in prison.

September 28, 2010 - 9:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Christopher Paul Rutherford, 26 of Cowen Road, Piffard, is charged with petit larceny. Rutherford is accused of giving a free oil change and tire rotation and balance to a friend. The alleged incident occurred at 2:04 p.m., Aug. 20.

Thomas Michael Ford, 21, of Brockport-Spencerport Road, Brockport, is charged with petit larceny. Ford allegedly stole engine oil and a tire rotation and balance from Walmart. Ford is accused of receiving the service on April 1.

Edward M. Davis, Jr., 45, of 23 Oak St., Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Davis is accused of sending text messages to a person he was ordered not to contact. Davis was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Ashley Evette Mercado, 20, Watson St., Batavia, was picked up on a bench warrant from a previous trespass charge. Mercado was allegedly involved in an unrelated incident, leading to police contact and discovery of the warrant. Mercado was jailed on $250 bail.

September 27, 2010 - 6:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt.

Ron Wendt's truck was likely traveling at 11 mph when it was struck by a Toyota Camry on Aug. 14, 2009 as Wendt attempted to make a left-hand turn into the parking lot of My Saloon on Broadway in Darien.

The Camry, driven by Rachel Enderle, 27, of Dansville, was likely going at 46 mph at the point of impact.

This is the testimony of accident scene investigator Deputy Ron Meides.

Meides said he had no ability to calculate the speed of the Camry in the second prior to impact.

Defense Attorney Thomas Burns asked a number of questions about the relative speed of the Camry and how much distance it would have traveled at those speeds.

Previously, Enderle and another witness have put the possible speeds in a range from 50 to 60 mph.

Witness Amanda McClellan estimated in earlier testimony that Wendt's truck was traveling at 30 to 40 mph as he attempted to make the turn.

Meides said his calculations were based on the distance the vehicles moved from the point of impact to where they came to rest. Because Wendt's truck hit a parked truck, therefore stopping motion, Meides had to begin his calculations on the distance that the stationary truck moved.

The starting point of the calculations was a gouge in the roadway. He estimated that the Camry traveled 10 feet from the point of impact and the Wendt's Dodge Ram moved 15 feet.

The weights of the vehicles with their respective passengers are also a factor in the calculation, as is the condition of the roadway. 

The type of roadway -- in this case "polished asphalt" (because of heavy use and age) -- adds "drag" to the motion of the vehicles (as does the condition of the tires, but not as much as the road surface).

Because the Sheriff's Office doesn't have the necessary device, Meides did not test for roadway drag to get a precise measurement. He testified that the number he used (called a co-efficient) was .5, which he said is standard under those conditions.

Other testimony today:

Sgt. Steve Mullen of the Sheriff's Office was called back to the stand to narrate a nighttime video he and other investigators made of driving past My Saloon. The video included two vehicles -- a truck stopped with its turn signal on in front of My Saloon and a sedan driving through Darien Center at 45 mph.

The only defense witness called today was Benjamin Bonarigo, an intern at his father's law firm, Bonarigo & McCutcheon. Bonarigo took additional pictures of the accident scene area on behalf of the defense.

Both attorneys rested their cases today and the jury was dismissed for the evening. Closing arguments begin around 9 a.m., Tuesday.

Once the jury was out of the courtroom, Burns resumed his motions for dismissal of all 11 counts against Wendt, saying that the People have failed to make its case that Wendt was driving under the influence and that he drove in a reckless manner.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman was critical of Burns' motion, saying that Burns offered no proof that the People had failed to make its case. In fact, Friedman argued, there was sufficient evidence of DWI and that Wendt's actions were reckless.

"Obviously it’s our position, and I think that viewing the evidence in the most favorable light to the people, we have established reckless driving," Friedman said. "The defendant turned (left) right in front of a car that is so close. It’s not just his intoxication. It’s not just his traffic violation. It’s that he made the turn with the other vehicle in such close proximity."

The issue of recklessness -- and how to instruct the jury on the charges involving recklessness -- were also a big point of contention between Burns and Friedman when discussing how Noonan will instruct the jury on the charges.

Burns wants a charge that would require the jury to find that Wendt's behavior was clearly reckless, that he acted in a way that showed careless disregard for other people on a public highway. Friedman said under the law, the People don't even need to prove criminal negligence to get a reckless driving conviction -- just that the defendant took an action and it led to the death of another person.

Noonan will issue his rulings on how to instruct the jury on the charges in the morning, but he set no specific time on when he might rule on Burns' dismissal motions.

September 27, 2010 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt.

The prosecution in the Ronald J. Wendt manslaughter trial will not be allowed to submit evidence from a computer program that calculates and reaches conclusions on what happened in the Aug. 14, 2009 accident that killed a Dansville girl.

However, maps generated by the program that depict the accident scene without interpretation can be used, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled in Genesee County Court today.

The combination of measuring devices and computer programs are known as Nikon Total Station, Vista FX (6th Edition) and Crashnet.

Noonan concluded that there are no precedents for using these programs for the purpose of accident-scene reconstruction and one of the tests of admissibility would be establishing general acceptance for that purpose by the scientific community. That has not been established, Noonan ruled.

In another matter, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman objected to photos brought into court today by defense attorney Thomas Burns, saying he hadn't been properly notified and questioning their evidentiary value.

Noonan ruled that Friedman could challenge the value of the photos as evidence at the time Burns attempts to enter them as evidence.

The photos were taken recently of the accident scene area. Burns said some of the photos show views that have not been offered into evidence by the prosecution.

September 27, 2010 - 1:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt.


As I've read our coverage of the Ron Wendt manslaughter trial, I've thought a couple of times it would be useful to see the scene of the accident, what the roadway is like, where buildings are located. 

To help with some perspective are four pictures from the scene. Note, to avoid any visual warping of perspective, I did not use telephoto settings on my lens. I did use a wide-angle setting from the porch of My Saloon.

Top picture is looking east on Route 20/Broadway from the low point of the road, less than 100 yards from the driveway of My Saloon (just past the Route 354 turn sign on the right).

For a bigger version of this picture, click here.

The trial resumes this afternoon.

More pictures after the jump:

September 25, 2010 - 3:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, Darien, accidents, Ronald J. Wendt II.

The DWI trial of Ronald J. Wendt II hit a snag late Friday afternoon when the prosecution elicited testimony regarding the equipment used in the accident-scene investigation.

Without the jury present, Judge Robert Noonan questioned the admissibility of information about the Nikon Total Station, Vista FX (6th Edition) and Crashnet, saying case law and the equipments' use in other jurisdictions needed to be researched before he could make a ruling.

As a result, fact-finding in the case, which was expected to conclude by 5 o'clock, was reconvened until Monday at 1:30 p.m.

(The judge has another matter to handle Monday morning.)

All but perhaps two or three people present were in for a lesson in modern technology.

It began with the testimony of Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Ronald E. Meides, who has nearly 20 years of service and was named Officer of the Year in 2009.

He took the stand at 3:30 p.m. and detailed his training, which included 14 weeks of field training, in accident-scene investigations and said he had handled about 1,000 of them, but only 20 serious enough to warrant an extensive report.

Meides investigated the accident scene in front of My Saloon in Darien in mid-August last year. Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Kevin Finnell, he said the process includes viewing the scene, collecting data, observing the vehicles involved, noting skids marks, gouges in the pavement and environmental factors.

Measurements of tire marks, etc., are taken, in this case, on the day following the accident -- in the daytime on Aug. 15. Meides said the places where the vehicles came to rest had been spray painted and other physical evidence noted. Reference points are also noted -- a nearby drainage basin, a telephone pole, curb cut-outs, driveways, and the front porch of My Saloon.

A week later the officer went to Parisee's automotive shop in Alexander where the Sheriff's department secures and stores vehicles. He measured the "crushed profiles" of driver Rachel Enderle's Toyota Camry and defendant Wendt's Dodge Ram extended-cab pickup.

All of the data is stored in an electronic measuring device -- the Nikon Total Station -- and downloaded into a computer. Then a picture is drawn around the "data points" shown on the screen. The resulting diagram was projected in the courtroom Friday for the jurors to see.

The gist of Finnell's questions and Meides' answers seemed to indicate that this nifty tool used in creating the diagram can determine approach angles, (impact) departure angles, distances, points of impact, resting points, speed and on and on.

All ready to go for it, Finnell then asked "What happened in this accident?"

Defense Attorney Thomas Burns objected, saying there was no foundation established to allow testimony indicating the equipment is standard and accurate.

The jury was recessed and the judge left the courtroom to do a bit of research.

When Noonan returned, with the jury still out, he said his "research shows the Nikon Total Station has not been cited in any case in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

"Absent some indication by this or some other witness, that the Nikon Total Station is generally accepted, I can't allow testimony about it. I've never heard of it, know nothing about it, just that you put data in and get information. The objection is sustained."

But after all this took place, Finnell did his own research during a break and then offered that, well, Vista FX is really the computer-aided draft (CAD) software used in doing the calculations, the Nikon gadget is only a measuring tool -- a fancy tape measure, so to speak.

Noonan, who seemed rather exasperated, said that's the first he'd ever heard about the Vista FX, since no one brought it up before, and he asked if it was  "judicially recognized for admissibility purposes?"

At that point, close to 4:30, the prosecutors, including District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, scrambled to find a credible witness to testify about the widespread acceptibility of Vista FX. The judge, too, left the room briefly to research this thing, and upon his return announced that his efforts "were equally unfruitful."

But Finnell persisted, saying "It's a valid software program, a CAD program, widely used."

"Then we need to lay that foundation," Noonan said.

Whereupon, finally, Sheriff's Sgt. William C. Scott, who had left the courthouse only shortly before, returned and took the oath to testify.

Scott, with 21 years of service and hundreds of crash-scene investigations to his credit, told of his familiarity with Vista FX and the Nikon Total Station. These, he said, are routinely used by law enforcement, fire inspectors, engineers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Nikon Total Station uses a "reflective prism" to measure distance and other data and the Vista FX software is a CAD program which uses the Nikon information to map out the scene. These are specially geared for use by law and fire departments and in Genesee County they've been employed for 10 years, according to Scott.

"Once you put in the data, what does it give you?" the judge asked Scott.

"Points on a screen," the sargeant replied, which you can label and ID beforehand on the Nikon.

"Do these instruments calculate speed, direction?" Noonan asked, trying to put all the pieces together.

"No, not in and of itself," Scott explained, sort of. "They are used for you to make your own determinations. The program (Vista FX) can be input with information for it to calculate...the mathematics for crash measurements."

Scott said he was trained to use Vista FX by the vendor himself and his salesman.

Burns asked if Vista FX can calculate the results, if requested, for speeds of vehicles at the time of impact, or provide estimates of the kinetic energy, or amount of force, in a crash.

Yes, Scott said, he uses Vista FX and measurements gathered from other sources to glean information to feed into yet another wonder of the modern world, Crashnet.

This is a software program comprised of 150 mathematical equations, embedded in Vista FX, to provide answers once figures are manually put in. For example, the momentum of a bicycle involved in an accident with a car.

Burns asked if other members of the Sheriff's Department were also trained in Crashnet and Scott said that four or five others were trained the first week it was acquired.

This is also employed by the Sheriff's offices in Niagara and Chautauqua counties, among other organizations, Scott said.

"Have they put that before a court? Has it been used in any court?" Burns asked.

"I don't know," Scott responded.

"This is new territory," Noonan said. "I know you want me to make a ruling today, but I want to look into this a little more before reconvening (the jury)."

Eighteen-year-old Katie Stanley died in the crash Wendt is on trial for. She was a front-seat passenger in Rachel's car when it slammed into the side of Wendt's truck just after 11 p.m. on Aug. 14, 2009.

September 25, 2010 - 9:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.


Batavia PD is asking for help in identifying the man in this picture. Investigators wish to speak to him related to a possible larceny at Tops Market. No further details were released.

September 25, 2010 - 1:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

mug_gambino.jpgA Covington man is being accused of trying to convince Walmart employees that he was a federal law enforcement agent.

Why isn't clear, but Nikko C. Gambino allegedly entered the Batavia Walmart on two occasions wearing clothing with law enforcement markings, displaying a badge and saying, the first time, that he was looking for robbery suspects, and a second time saying he was looking for a fugitives.

Following an investigation, members of the Genesee County Local Drug Task Force along with officers from the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office, conducted a search of Gambino's Covington home and reportedly found articles of clothing with law enforcement markings and a metal badge.

Gambino was charged with two counts of criminal impersonation, 2nd, and one count of falsely reporting an incident.

He was jailed on $5,000 bail and additional charges may be pending.

September 24, 2010 - 1:26pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, crime, Ronald J. Wendt II.

The expert witness for the defense in the Ronald J. Wendt II trial was grilled Thursday afternoon by the prosecution, which brought out some discrepancies in testimony given years ago in other trials.

Fran Gengo, Ph.D, is a clinical pharmacologist at the DENT Neurological Institute and currently serves as an associate professor of Pharmacy and Neurology and a clinical assistant professor of Neurosurgery at the SUNYAB School of Medicine. He now practices neuropharmacology research and pharmacotherapy.

His testimony yesterday concerned the rate of alcohol absorption in the body, the accuracy of breath analysis devices, specifically the DataMaster, and criteria for determining a person's level of intoxication.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell asked if alcohol can have an impact on a person's perception, eye-tracking ability, motor skills and cognition.

Gengo said he had to qualify his answer, "depending on the concentration amount."

According to testimony given in a trial on April 10, 2007 in Michigan, Finnell told Gengo, "you said you believe you can look at a person and determine if he's been drinking."

Gengo said, yes, but not whether that person was intoxicated. Finnell countered by saying Gengo back then said he could tell someone's BAC by looking at them, which Gengo flatly denied.

Back and forth they went, with Finnell asking a question and saying "that's a yes or no," and Gengo hesitating and saying the prosecutor was "mischaracterizing his words."

Finnell also asked him about his voluntary participation in unpaid activities, specifically  "grand rounds," a sort of group discussion with students and other professionals about medical, pharmacologic and related topics.

The witness on several occasions, including this inquiry, looked puzzled by Finnell's questions, as though he could not ascertain their relevance.

Finnell asked him if he was paid for his testimony, yes, Gengo replied, $500 to research and decide whether to take a case, and $3,500 for preparation and testimony.

Finnell pointed out that his prices had gone up since 2004, when he charged $2,000 for preparation and testimony. Finnell asked Gengo if favorable defense testimony resulted in more clients, therefore more money in his pockets.

Gengo replied that no, it didn't, his career was more dependant upon his credibility regardless of a trial's outcome, and furthermore, he accepts on only one of every six cases he encounters.

Then they parsed over how correct the calibration was of the DataMaster breathylizer once it left the factory with a rate of .002 accuracy in detecting the amount of alcohol in a person's system. Gengo maintained that, although that standard was higher than the state's .005 standard, the "instrument alone" shouldn't be the determining factor, rather a person's biology, whether they have eaten, their body-mass index, gender, are part of the picture as well.

"The mathematical calculations in some instances are arbitrary," Gengo said.

Inevitably, they went into the inscrutable territory of "partition co-efficients," citing an esteemed Swissman, Dr. Allen Jones's body of work and when and how Gengo's statements differed with this colleague, a man Gengo "had the pleasure of dining with on at least three occasions."

Jones has written, according to Finnell, that the body's rate of alcohol absorption is between five minutes to two hours. Gengo said that was wrong, he believes it to be 45 minutes to two to three hours. The provider of the course materials used to train officers, Intoxometer Co., claims it is 15 minutes to two hours.

"But that is not complete absorption," Gengo said. "It is the time of peak absorption. (In detecting alcohol levels) breath overtakes blood until absorption is complete."

On re-direct examination, Defense Attorney Thomas Burns asked Gengo if he was aware of any jurisdiction where two blows into a breathylizer are mandated. Yes, Dengo replied, but not in New York.

"I don't recall any case where they had the same numbers twice," Gengo said, although they are usually "within a narrow margin."

Gengo was able to explain that a "partition co-efficient" says that for every 2,100 molecules of alcohol in one's breath, there is one molecule in the blood.

This tends to "grossly underestimate the variance of alcohol levels of subjects in the field versus the laboratory."

For example, he said, if a person is running a fever, that can result in a higher number of molecules of alcohol in the blood.

After Gengo's testimony, Sheriff's Deputy Tim Wescott was recalled to the stand. Under questioning by Burns, the officer said he did not ask Wendt at the accident scene about his physical condition, whether or when he had eaten or slept, if he wore contacts and if he was injured.

But when placing handcuffs on him later, Wendt told the officer his left forearm was injured in the accident. Asked if that could have had an impact on his balance during the field sobriety tests, the officer said, yes, if could have.

Asked if he had looked inside Wendt's truck to ascertain any damage inside the cabin on the driver's side, Wescott said no, because he's "not the tallest man in the world" and it would have been difficult to do from a street level.

September 23, 2010 - 1:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt II.

Tim Wescott has spent 10 of his 12 years with the Genesee County Sheriff's Department on road patrol. It is a job he has trained extensively for and kept up to date on.

Under questioning from District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, Wescott told jurors in the Ronald J. Wendt II trial Wednesday afternoon, that he has taken courses at three different community colleges on how to conduct driver field sobriety tests and use the equipment to do so.

And yet despite the possibility that Wendt, too, may have been injured in the accident, though not obviously so -- perhaps he hit his head or tweaked his neck or back -- the deputy did not ask Wendt how he was or if he was injured.

Under cross-examination from defense Attorney Thomas Burns, Wescott testified that he wasted no time in performing field sobriety tests, which Wendt performed poorly.

Burns asked Wescott if his education included any medical training with regard to head trauma and concussions. He asked if he had learned about the possible effects of back or head injuries on tests for balance, coordination and mental functioning. No, Wescott said.

Burns asked if he was taught to ask about possible injuries before conducting sobriety tests.

"I don't know if I'm required to ask him," Wescott said. "I didn't."

Wescott testified that he was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the accident scene on Aug. 14, 2009, in front of My Saloon on Broadway Road in Darien. That was at 11:13 p.m. -- four minutes after the first 9-1-1 call was received by dispatch (11:08 p.m.) and relayed to the officer at 11:09 p.m.

He estimated he conducted the intox tests on Wendt about 10 minutes after arrival and arrested him for DWI at 11:37.

The first thing Wescott noticed when he arrived at the crash was three damaged vehicles, Wendt's maroon pickup, Rachel Enderle's Toyota Camry, and a black truck that was parked in the lot. The Camry and Wendt's truck had both spun around as a result the impact of the crash.

Mercy EMS had one subject in an ambulance, a man in the roadway being worked on by medics, and he saw two women involved in the accident walking around. It was choatic, with bar patrons and others milling around, too.

Wescott said he spoke briefly with Rachel, the driver of the Toyota who struck Wendt's truck when he pulled in front of her as he made a left-hand turn into the My Saloon parking lot. He said there was no indication she had been drinking.

He was trying to get information about Wendt's truck, which was missing a front license plate, when Wendt approached him and said "I'm the one you're looking for."

Wendt told the officer he had come from a residence in Attica, was stopping for one (beer) and "thought he had time to turn."

"He had bloodshot, glassy eyes, some slurred speach and the odor of alcohol on his breath," the deputy said, who then asked if he'd been drinking.

Wendt said he had a few beers and then added "You might as well have me blow and take me to jail." The deputy said he'd rather have him do field sobriety tests.

The officer then detailed the standard tests given and what are called "clues" as to the person's inebriation. No single test can conclusively determine if a person is intoxicated, he noted. But Wendt did not pass any test "cluelessly."

Wendt told the officer he'd had four or five beers throughout the day while baling hay with a friend and had drank his last one about 15 minutes before the accident, which killed Rachel's back-seat passenger, 18-year-old Katie Stanley, of Dansville.

"He said he was slowing down, with his turn-signal on, and thought he had time to make the turn but said he guessed he didn't," Wescott said.

At the scene, it was determined that Wendt had no registration for his pickup, no current inspection sticker, his plate had been "voluntarily surrendered," and his only ID was an expired motorcycle driver's license.

After he was arrested and taken to jail, his picture was taken and it was shown to the jury yesterday. He looked slightly sunburned, unshaven, with reddish, tired-looking eyes. After being read his Miranda warnings and being interviewed by Wescott, he signed a voluntary statement about the accident at 1:13 a.m. Wescott said his demeanor, sobriety, or lack thereof, had not changed from his first encounter with him.

In other testimony Wednesday, Sheriff's Investigator Steve Mullen explained to jurors how a video recreating the moments leading up to the accident was made. They were not shown the video, however. One was made in daylight, another at night, earlier this year.

A key point was determining how far one can see cars coming down Route 20 eastbound from the roadway in front of My Saloon. Wendt had been heading westbound. It was estimated that one could see "several hundred yards" up the road, which then dips down at midway at the cemetery before rising, making cars visible again.

The speed limit goes from 55 to 40 east of the cemetery. In making the video, the eastbound driver was instructed to go 55 then take his foot off the gas pedal and start to brake at the 40 mph sign. The driver reached a speed of 45 mph by the time he got to My Saloon. How fast Rachel was driving is one of the points of contention in the case.

The other person who took the stand Wednesday was Rachel's cousin, Tim Enderle. Heavyset, 22, and a resident of North Chili, he testified that he, Rachel, Katie and Gabby Mahus had left a concert at Darien Lake early to avoid rowdy crowds. He was the front-seat passenger. They were on Route 20 heading to Rachel's house in Dansville.

"I noticed headlights up ahead, I try to notice everything, I think that's my responsibility as a passenger," Tim said. "I noticed the headlights shook a little bit -- as though somebody was deciding whether to turn."

He said he thought the truck was going "at a pretty high rate of speed and it sort of veered into the parking lot. He said Rachel was staying in her lane, looking ahead and was in no way distracted.

"I barely had time to put my arm up on the dashboard, I guess it was less than a car length in front of us," Tim said. "I took a deep breath. The crash was instantaneous. I could barely breathe. I smelled smoke, it was horrible."

Tim's window was rolled up and his door was jammed shut afterward. He said he looked at the others in the car and noticed Rachel and Gabby were OK, but Katie was not and blood was coming out of her nose area. When they were able to get him out of the vehicle, he tried to stand but felt an excruciating pain in his leg and fell to the ground.

He saw Katie on a guerney being taken to the ambulance.

"I noticed her arm was dangling down," he said. "I reached up and put it on her stomach."

He was taken to UMMC, then to Strong where underwent surgery on his leg and hip and spent weeks and weeks in rehab. He suffered a dislocated hip, two fractured vertabrae and his "femural head was driven up into his leg." Afterward, he spent months at home in a wheelchair, then a walker. He still has terrible pain, including while he was testifying, he said.

September 23, 2010 - 7:19am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

David Timothy Neuhaus, 23, of North Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Neuhaus is accused of stealing property from another person in Bergen. The time of the alleged incident was 5:20 a.m., Tuesday.

Randy Lawrence Sanfratello, 40, of West Main Street Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Sanfratello allegedly remained on the property of another person whom he was ordered not to be near.

William J. Christner, 55, of Batavia, is charged with DWI and aggravated DWI. Christner was stopped by State Police at 9:07 p.m., Tuesday, on Route 5 in the Town of Batavia.




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