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jennifer serrano

August 19, 2019 - 10:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in connor lynskey, news, crime, darien lake, notify, jennifer serrano.

The 49-year-old mother of three who drove drunk a year ago and killed a Hinckley teenager, leaving him to die alone in ditch in a cornfield off Sumner Road, was given the maximum possible sentence today in Genesee County Court.

Jennifer Serrano was convicted by a jury on July 2 of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, and misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. Connor Lynskey was killed sometime after midnight on Aug. 11 on Sumner Road while walking back to a campsite after attending a country music concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center with friends.

But before she was sentenced, Serrano had to listen to the tragedy she has wrought on Connor's family and hear firsthand of his mother's heartbreak.

Donna Lynskey read her remarks at the podium in a packed courtroom, with her husband, Michael, gently holding her right elbow, and Connor's brother, other relatives and their priest holding large portraits of Connor -- in his soccer uniform, suited in a senior high school photo, smiling in khaki shorts and a light-colored shirt.

A Mother Tells A Courtroom About Her Son

"I want you to know who Connor was," she said.

By last summer, the 18-year-old had completed his freshman year with honors at Siena College in Loudonville and he planned to become a rural doctor. At the time of his death, he had one week left of his summer vacation before he was scheduled to return Aug. 19 for his sophomore year and training as a resident assistant in the freshman dorms.

He had already been accepted into Upstate Medical University’s Medical Doctor Program during his senior year at Holland Patent High School, where he had a 95.35 GPA and was the president of his class.

Connor was also captain of his soccer team, named to the Center State Conference All-Star Team for soccer, and was the Division 1 Player of the Year in 2017 for the Center State Conference.

In his honor, Connor’s soccer coach now gives out the Connor Lynskey Award to a player on the Holland Patent Varsity Soccer Team at the end of the season. The award reads that it goes to “someone who always gives 100 percent at everything he does; doesn’t take shortcuts; always leads by example; is kind; a leader off and on the field; a good musician; does great in school; is an excellent runner; and always treats people with respect."

Connor also participated in track and field in high school, was a talented saxophone player, both in his high school wind ensemble and jazz band. His classmates voted Connor as the most likely to succeed in his graduating class.

"Not once was there ever a phone call home from school that Connor had misbehaved," Donna Lynskey said. "At all parent-teacher conferences and open houses, the comments that were made about Connor were glowing – respectful, kind, intelligent, and the list goes on."

He also enjoyed kayaking, skiing, swimming, pickup games of football and soccer, climbing the Adirondack Mountains, and February breaks in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

He was employed at his family's restaurant where he started as a landscaper and dish washer and then moved up to carver, cook and banquet server. He took pride in working with his father and helping out his family.

On several occasions Connor talked about wanting to be a foster parent when he got older. He wanted to help kids who were less fortunate. He always came home inspired whenever he volunteered at the soup kitchen in Utica, his mother said.

"He stated to our priest that he enjoyed being an altar server because that is when he felt closest to God," Lynskey said.

Connor’s favorite place to go was Ager Falls (in Lyons Falls) to swim, discover, explore and slide down the rocks.

"We are grateful that the Sunday before Connor was killed we went there as a family one last time and took some priceless photos of him," she said.

In fact, 2018 was the best summer of his life. He had grown into an impressive young man. He had spent a week on Montauk Point with his cousin, aunt and uncle. He ran the 15K Boilermaker Road Race in Utica with his cousins and uncle. And he traveled to Lima and Machu Picchu, Peru, where he spent close to three weeks learning the culture with newfound Peruvian friend, Manu, from Siena College. Connor had already made plans to travel to Peru again in 2019.

"Above all Connor was a kind and caring person," his mother said. "Connor was the one to find time to travel to his grandmother’s house just to check in on her and play a game of rummy or seeing what he could do to help her around the house.

"He was the one to take time out of his busy schedule to hand write his grandmother letters via snail mail (USPS) to let her know how he’s doing at college since she doesn’t email or text."

The aspiring doctor was also full of joy.

"When you were around him you couldn’t help but feel his happiness and his love for life," his mother said. "He wasn’t loud and boisterous. He was a listener, a thinker. He had his grandfather’s steel blue eyes and his father’s wonderful sense of humor. ... He was the mysterious light that others followed. We all relied on him."

His biology study group at college said they could count on Connor to liven things up when they were stressing out because he'd tell a silly joke like "Under what?" to try and get someone to say "Under where?" even though they'd heard the gag a hundred times.

"​He had a way about him that brought happiness, peace and inclusiveness," Lynskey said. "Connor seemed to have a deeper understanding about life than most people."

A Miracle Child

After their first child, Michael Jr., was born the doctor told the Lynskeys they would not have any more children. But nearly six years later Connor was born.

And his big brother Michael took great pride in teaching his little sibling things he needed to know.

"Connor was Michael’s protégé," she said. "They played sports, video games, fantasy football, and the game of life. They were best friends. When they were together, it was as if they had their own language that only they understood."

Connor's medical school ambitions were modeled after his brother's, who had blazed the trail to medical school before him. They planned to open their future medical practice together in Upstate New York.

Almost three years after Connor’s birth, his sister, Meghan, was born.

"Connor will always be her guardian angel," his mother said. "From the time Meghan was born, Connor took his role as big brother seriously and guided her every step of the way."

Their Lives Are Shattered

Connor was killed sometime after midnight on Aug. 11 last year. They received a phone call about 9 a.m. that morning that Connor was missing.

“Missing? What do you mean? He went camping with his friends. How could he possibly be missing?” she told the caller.

His parents quickly left on the three-hour trip to Darien Lake, praying the whole way there was some misunderstanding. It just didn’t make sense to them that their responsible, reliable son was missing. They called the area’s hospitals and they prayed. By 11 a.m. “we were at a loss. We knew something was terribly wrong.”

As they crossed Sumner Road, they noticed the road was closed and a police car had its lights flashing. As they came closer, they noticed several police cars at the side of the road with their lights on. “This couldn’t be.” Then an officer approached their vehicle and told them they could proceed no further.

I explained “My son is missing. Did you find my son?”

Lynskey paused at this point and swallowed hard, fighting back tears.

She told the officer her son’s name and the officer said yes, they had found her son. "Can we see him?" she asked. “He stated ‘no you cannot.’ “

“Is he dead?” she asked, “and he shook his head yes. 'Are you sure? Are you sure he is dead?' And the officer replied ‘I am sure.’ "

“That’s when our lives were shattered. Unless you have experienced the loss of one of your children, you cannot understand or even begin to imagine the anguish. Our world fell apart. The shock was overwhelming. To think that Connor had worked so hard for his short 18 years … and it was taken away so quickly. All of his hopes and dreams were extinguished. He would never be able to help the people of Upstate New York that he so wanted to."

They tried to fathom how someone could hit him and leave him in a ditch to die.

"At first we thought it must have been a young driver – someone under age 25 whose brain hadn’t fully developed yet, somebody who did not realize the extent of their actions," she said.

But after they came to learn the killer was a then-48-year-old mother of three, with a passenger in the car – another mother, she said they "lost their faith in humanity."

Things Have Different Meanings Now

Everything in their lives has changed – "from the meaning of songs on the radio, to the patterns of the clouds in the sky, the actions of the birds around us, the meaning of the butterflies flying near us, to the pain of waking up in the morning and realizing it isn’t just a nightmare. This is our reality.

"Little by little, we are trying to rebuild our lives. It's a slow process. I'm told by others who’ve lost children that the pain never subsides. All you can do is learn to live with the pain and try to put the shattered pieces back together. We cannot get through it; but we are trying to live forward.”

The Way It Appears

"According to court testimony, it appears it wasn’t enough for the defendant to consume 22 to 29 alcoholic beverages on Aug. 10 into the early morning hours of Aug. 11," Connor's mother said. "She then decided to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, turning it into a deadly weapon. It appears that it wasn’t enough for her to decide to leave my son in the ditch on Sumner Road to die alone.

"It appears that if she had stopped and called 9-1-1 my son would have had a chance at survival. It appears that didn’t matter to her or the passenger in that vehicle. The only concern they had was for themselves.

"Even after nearly hitting a police vehicle and watching the body cam video of the field sobriety test, I was perplexed and disgusted. How could a person who just hit a human being and left him at the side of the road be laughing and smiling? And even after all that the defendant has shown no remorse and took these charges to trial."

Lynskey then quoted from a transcript of a phone call that Serrano had with someone named "Dennis" while in Niagara County Jail: “I know that I did the stupidest thing I could have possibly ever done. But I’ve done stupider and this is a horrible accident.”

Connor's mother finds it "absolutely despicable" that Serrano chose to drive drunk, killed her son, left him in a ditch to die, then took the case to trial and tried to blame Connor for his own death.

"She has no regard for human life except her own," she said.

She then asked Judge Charles Zambito for the maximum sentence allowable by law: four-and-two-thirds to 14 years in state prison.

Throughout the mother's statement, Serrano seemed to pay attention and she looked at Lynskey as she spoke. Serrano wore heavy bangs and had her hair in a topknot pinned unneatly on her head. She had on eyeglasses, wore dark slacks and an ivory blouse. She was flanked by her two attorneys. She did not cry -- at first.

No Plea Deal Ever Considered

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman spoke next and said this case is the first time in his nearly 38 years of working as a prosecutor that he made absolutely no plea offer.

The reason is because when he spoke to Connor's mother initially about the case and told her that the maximum this defendant was facing was four-and-two-thirds to 14 years, she couldn’t comprehend how that could be possible.

"I had to agree with her," Friedman said. "That sentence is woefully inadequate."

But it's possible because of the way the statute is written and by Serrano's decision, some say a calculated one, to refuse a Breathalyzer test, not report the accident and therefore not be subjected to BAC mandatory testing.

Based on testimony at trial, had her BAC been known, Friedman, Lynskey and subsequently Judge Zambito all said they had no doubt it would have been above .18 percent – which would make the crime a first-degree vehicular manslaughter charge – a Class C felony – with a sentence of five to 15 years. If you add the two-and-one-third to seven years for leaving the scene of an accident, she could have faced seven to 22 years.

"Concurrent sentencing would constitute a horrible failure to recognize what the defendant did by fleeing the scene," Friedman told Zambito.

The district attorney reminded the court that the defendant ignored pleas from her own passenger about striking something in the roadway and drove off. When she nearly struck a deputy's vehicle a short time later, she refused a BAC test.

"She knew what she had done," Friedman said. "She knew this was not just a minor DWI."

After she was arrested for DWI and her license was taken, she still got into her Jeep Wrangler and drove on the Thruway to her home in Chautauqua County, Friedman said. Ultimately it was her passenger's husband who reported the accident, the DA said, and the passenger contacted an attorney who then called Genesee County Sheriff's Office to check on a hit-and-run accident.

Friedman said he read the letters submitted to the court by Serrano's friends and family, but the person described is not a person capable of committing the acts in this court case.

"That person is not someone who simply engaged in an uncharacteristic lapse of judgment -- her decisions, her choices, her actions showed over and over a callous disregard for human life -- of others, not just Connor’s," Friedman said. "She continued to drive while intoxicated after striking Connor, causing his death, after her license was suspended, while she was still under the influence of alcohol."

This point prompted Serrano to twist uncomfortably in her chair, slump over the table and sob.

"Then she tried to convince a jury that Connor was responsible for his death, which a unanimous jury did not buy beyond a reasonable doubt," Friedman said.

He then read more quotes from transcripts of her jailhouse phone calls: "I feel so guilty, I feel so bad for that mother." In an effort to blame her passenger she says “the princess couldn’t walk two miles to the tent. …. I’m just pissed, you know, I take my blame in it. I shouldn’t have driven. But you know what Babs? We had a tent pitched at Brook’s house on 77, two miles up the road and the bitch didn’t want to walk. The princess didn’t want to walk.  … I am responsible for my own choices. ... I deserve everything I get."

"Truer words were never spoken, your honor, she deserves everything she gets," Friedman added.

'She Knows She Is Really Messed Up'

Her attorney Frank LoTempio said it's been "a tough road for everyone involved." He perfunctorily apologized to the Lynskey family for their loss.

Then he told Judge Zambito that the person who has been portrayed in the Genesee County courtroom is not the person Serrano really is. He characterized her as remorseful and said "she knows she is really messed up" -- a fact underscored by her attempted suicide a few days after the incident.

"She never had an issue with the law before," LoTempio said. "She's not a monster as Mr. Friedman portrayed her to be. ... This is a successful businesswoman who was strained by going through a difficult divorce. She will make a difference when she gets out. She's a very, very, very good person.

LoTempio said a consecutive sentence, versus a concurrent one, is “not at all” appropriate in his client's case. He even cited a case from January where Zambito sentenced someone involved in a serious injury accident while intoxicated to six months in prison and five years probation. This is the kind of balance Zambito should consider today, he added hopefully, and noted that his client has already been behind bars for a year to date.

But Zambito was unpersuaded after reviewing all of the case materials and the letters from family and friends on both sides. He acknowleged that he had wide latitude in sentencing.

"Connor Lynskey appeared to be an outstanding young man with a bright and luminous future," Zambito said. "His death amounts to an immeasurable loss to his family, his friends and the community. Who’s to say whose lives he might have touched had he been able to live."

Nonetheless it is "untenable" to weigh the value of someone’s life in reaching a sentence. All life is valuable. He acknowleged the defendant has no prior criminal history.

For the Judge, the Facts Speak for Themselves

"The most important factors are the facts of the case itself," the judge said.

He agrees with the prosecution that the defendant was highly, highly intoxicated. She was driving the vehicle that struck and killed Connor Lynskey.

"As to the question of Connor walking in the roadway, with all respect to the jury, it doesn’t matter," Zambito said.

Serrano drove with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Her passenger said when they were stopped on Route 77, she either fell asleep or passed out.

Testimony of the defense expert did not indicate she did not see Connor; she should have known she hit something. She should have seen him. The front right fender was torn off, flew over vehicle, the windshield smashed, the passenger side mirror was broken off.

Later, she tried to talk her way out of getting arrested by Deputy Henning, Zambito said, citing her ties to law enforcement. When that was not successful, she became verbally combative. She refused testing and did not report an accident, which allowed her to avoid mandatory testing, therefore her degree of intoxication is unknowable.

Then she still drove after her license was revoked that night following the near-accident with the deputy. She didn’t go to the police, she talked to an attorney. Her friend finally reported it.

"Her actions are so egregious, they outweigh mitigating factors," Zambito concluded.

He was singularly unimpressed with the letter she wrote on her own behalf to him.

"Your statements are so nuanced, to express regret without admitting guilt, maybe it was written by your attorney," Zambito said.

She mentions having "no intent" – none is required, he noted, and "to say you expected to be found not guilty, tells me you still don't feel guilty."

Indeed, she writes as if she's being wrongly persecuted  – that she’s been treated unfairly by the DA, law enforcement. The overall correspondence lacks sincerity, he told her.

"I do try to be balanced, I'm not what anybody would call a hanging judge, but I can’t find any reason not to give the maximum possible," Zambito said.

So he wrapped matters up by declaring she will serve two-and-one-third to seven years indeterminately on the conviction of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and the same amount of time consecutively for leaving the scene of an accident -- a total of four-and-two-thirds to 14 years, along with a $2,000 fine. 

Serrano studied her hands and picked at her nails as the minutae was read.

Upon release, her NYS driver's license will be revoked for one year for the manslaughter conviction. For the misdemeanor DWI, her prison sentence is one year to run concurrently, with a $500 fine and a license revocation of six months.

For aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree, she'll serve 180 days concurrently and pay a $500 fine.

Post-release conditional discharge was set for three years and she must have an interlock ignition device on her vehicle once she receives her driving privileges back.

She'll also pay: a $50 DNA fee; $75 surcharge on misdemeanor DWI conviction; a Crime Victim Assistance Fee of $25; $195 DWI and vehicle and traffic law surcharge.

All fines must begin being paid within 60 days of release at the rate of $100 a month.

Serrano did not look back at anyone in the gallery as she was led out of a courtroom side door to begin serving her sentence.

'Connor's Way' -- 'Something Good'

Also, Connor's mother announced the creation of "Connor's Way" -- "to help something good come out of this" -- established by her son's friends and family members. It will offer "scholarship opportunities to graduating high school seniors and to future medical students who want to work in underserved communities, and also help families in need."

Photos: Still frames taken from video by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

Story based on video and audio provided by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

July 2, 2019 - 6:32pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Darien, news, crime, notify, fatal hit-and-run, jennifer serrano.


Jennifer L. Serrano, 48, of Irving, was convicted this afternoon of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle at the conclusion of her six-day trial.

After less than three hours of deliberation in Genesee County Court, jurors rendered a unanimous guilty verdict on all four counts.

Serrano stood trial for killing 18-year-old Connor Lynskey with her Jeep Wrangler last August as both individuals traveled along Sumner Road in Darien after a concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

The decision came shortly after the jury requested to review Deputy Robert Henning’s body camera footage, which captured Serrano participating in field sobriety tests and refusing an Alco-sensor test. This video appeared to be a deciding factor that helped refresh jurors' recollections of early evidence in the case and expedite their verdict.

Defense attorney Frank LoTempio spoke about his client’s disappointment upon receiving the verdict.

“We didn’t receive one decision in our favor," LoTempio said. "The cards were kind of stacked up against us. But, the jury rendered their verdict, and we live with that."

LoTempio said that the trial’s proximity to the July 4th holiday may have contributed to the quick verdict, and defense counsel may potentially appeal the case.

After his court victory, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman expressed his satisfaction with both the verdict and the case he presented to jurors. He commended the Lynskey family for seeking justice for Connor’s death.

“They’re strong people,” Friedman said of the Lynskeys. “They were here for every single court appearance no matter how minor it was. They made a six-hour round trip for every court appearance.”

“Even when the testimony or the evidence was certainly unpleasant for them, they were here," Friedman said. "I’m sure it was a very difficult thing, but it was obviously something that they needed to do. They got through it, and I’m sure that they’re glad that they were here."

Serrano faces a prison term of four and two-thirds to 14 years upon sentencing. Judge Charles Zambito adjourned the court awaiting Serrano’s sentencing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 19 in Genesee County Court.


Top photo: The mother of Connor Lynskey, Donna, leaving court after the verdict, with Lawrence Friedman. Bottom photo, his father, Michael Lynskey. Photos by Lauren Leone.

July 1, 2019 - 8:22pm

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman called two rebuttal witnesses this afternoon, who are both accident reconstructionists, to provide insight about the precise location of 18-year-old Connor Lynskey when he was struck by alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano last August in Darien.

Expert James Orr testified in order to explain his findings based on police photographs and investigation measurements from the accident scene. Orr’s rationale for the absence of tire marks in the gravel along the edge of Sumner Road is that gravel will not be disturbed unless sudden maneuvering or braking occurs.

A photograph of what is purported to be Lynskey’s footprint was revisited numerous times today in court. The image, according to Orr, depicts a heel print in the gravel and the top of the foot pivoting out of the frame. Orr said this pivot represents Lynskey’s right foot as the left side of his body rotates in the direction of the vehicle upon impact. Orr said no debris of any kind could make that type of mark. 

"Using the debris field that was found primarily on the shoulder, gravel and grass, jurors will determine whether Lynskey was positioned in the traffic lane or if Serrano’s vehicle left the roadway.

Orr said that debris in accident scene photos may indicate that broken pieces from the vehicle's exterior made contact with Lynskey’s body at the point of impact.

Defense attorney Frank LoTempio asked Orr how he could know the exact collision location if he had relied on photos taken by Genesee County Sheriff's Office Investigator Chris Parker, who admitted he could not recall the precise location of gravel disturbance. Orr remained confident in his assertion that Lynskey was located on the shoulder at the time of impact. 

Jon Northrup, the second expert who testified today, reviewed police measurements and photos, and calculated pedestrian formulas when conducting his investigation. Northrup extended the angle of Lynskey’s slide path back to the shoulder and edge of the road to estimate Lynskey’s position.

Northrup testified that Lynksey flew 12 feet in the air upon collision and slid 18 feet through vegetation, a total distance of 30 feet from strike to resting place. Northrup predicts that Serrano’s vehicle was driving on the shoulder approximately 2.5 feet off the edge of the road.

Northrup said Lynskey’s footprint and contact with the vehicle’s windshield are not consistent with Lynskey tripping into the path of Serrano’s Jeep. He said that Lynskey was upright when he was struck.

Northrup disagreed with Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstructionist called by defense counsel, about his findings related to vehicle speed and visibility. Northrup claims Serrano's vehicle was traveling faster than 37.5 miles per hour and its headlight visibility was over 150 feet.

Orr and Northrup agreed that photo evidence from the accident scene that was collected by investigators could have been more conclusive had they made better photographs of the alleged footprint and debris field. They said accident reconstruction experts are trained to observe evidence that officers may not look for. 

Orr and Northrup each conceded there is no way to determine the precise vehicle speed or location of Lynskey upon impact because pedestrian calculations are only accurate for full-body hits, not partial strikes. 

Serrano is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Jurors will be informed of the legal specifications of each of the four counts tomorrow at 9 a.m. in Genesee County Court.

July 1, 2019 - 4:02pm

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman and defense attorney Frank LoTempio faced off during oral arguments this morning over the admission of rebuttal witness testimony during the trial of alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano. 

Friedman intends to call accident reconstructionists James Orr and Jon Northrup to testify to their perspectives of the location of a deadly impact between Serrano’s vehicle and 18-year-old pedestrian Connor Lynskey. Serrano and Lynskey were both traveling along Sumner Road after a concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center last August at the time of the collision.

Friedman argued that evidence introduced earlier in the trial will yield different interpretations from those offered by witnesses such as Sgt. Jason Saile and Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstruction expert.

The three main topics of debate are the speed of Serrano’s vehicle, the visibility on Sumner Road, and the location of vehicle-pedestrian impact. The rebuttal witnesses are also expected to weigh in on a photograph of what is purported to be Lynksey’s footprint in the gravel shoulder of the road.

LoTempio said that the district attorney failed to present Orr and Northrup as witnesses in a timely manner when he filed a motion for demand of discovery months ago. The discovery demand allows the People and the defendant to get an idea of the evidence that will be used against them during the trial.

LoTempio also claimed that the People’s rebuttal witnesses would be prejudicial to Serrano because defense expert Onions may not have the opportunity to respond to the alternate interpretations since he is currently out of the area.

During banter between Friedman and LoTempio, LoTempio let out an incredulous laugh when Friedman countered his arguments about mistrial, discovery demand and rebuttal witnesses. 

LoTempio said that the location of the impact is an element of causation that jurors should consider in their deliberations since Serrano is charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Judge Charles Zambito said that knowing the exact location of Lynskey at the time he was struck is not necessary for the jury to reach its verdict. After a recess, Zambito rendered the decision that the defense’s motion for a mistrial is denied and that it will be appropriate for the People to rebut with expert testimony from Orr and Northrup. 

The fifth day of the Serrano trial continues this afternoon in Genesee County Court.

June 29, 2019 - 7:10pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, jennifer serrano, darien fatal hit-and-run.

The sole witness to testify Friday morning in Genesee County Court in the fatal hit-and-run case of Jennifer L. Serrano was Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstruction expert hired by the defense.

Connor Lynskey, 18, was walking to the Darien Lakes State Campground following the Jason Aldean concert last summer; Serrano, who also attended the concert, was en route to a friend's house at the time of the accident on Sumner Road.

The witness said he: reviewed all of the materials -- reports, cell phone records, videos and photos -- gathered by investigators; visited the Darien site where Lynskey's body was found late in the morning Aug. 11; and took measurements to gauge the accuracy of those contained in Sgt. Jason Saile's investigation report.

In addition, Onions said in order to completely understand the case, he studied: the case file of Serrano's co-counsel Jack M. Sanchez; the Monroe County Medical Examiner's abstract; the deposition of Deputy Robert C. Henning (who arrested Serrano on a drunk-driving charge after she nearly struck his patrol car on Route 77 in the early morning Aug. 11); and the Darien Town Court's subsequent notice of temporary suspension of Serrano's NYS driver's license; search warrants; the Genesee County Grand Jury indictment; deposition of witness and passenger Candace Gilden; and vehicle specs for the defendant's Jeep Wrangler.

Attorney Frank LoTempio asked what he had determined about the accident and Onions said that Sumner Road at the time was unlit and dark, and had virtually no shoulders -- they measured from 1.2 inches to 5 inches in width, and were comprised of mixed gravel. Some grass is found beyond that, and cornfields. The two paved lanes total 22 feet across -- one lane is 10.8 feet, the other 11.2 feet wide.

Onions said Serrano was driving eastbound and that Lynskey was walking westbound in the eastbound lane, which would be in accordance with NYS traffic law that requires pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road, when there are no sidewalks, facing oncoming traffic.

This contradicts an allegation made on Thursday by LoTempio that Lynskey was possibly in violation of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law 1156b, since the landing spot of Lynskey’s body indicated he may have walked or jogged in the same direction as Serrano’s Jeep.

The point of impact is unclear.

Sgt. Saile's report, while noting an 87-foot debris field along the road, shoulder and adajcent land, found no evidence of tire marks in gravel to indicate the actual point of impact; nor were sneaker scuff marks found to indicate the direction of impact.

"They documented everything," Onions said of the Crash Management Team." (Saile) knew enough to look for sneaker scuffs that could indicate the point of impact. He didn't find any. ... There is no evidence to indicate the vehicle ever left the road."

Because of this, Onions said it is his contention that the impact occurred on the roadway -- that Lynskey was walking in the roadway.

On a display of the area shown to the jury on a large monitor, Onions pointed to a streak of flattened terrain marking where Lynskey's body slid south in a parallel line from the roadway after being struck, and bits of debris were strewn eastward.

The "total station measurements" taken by Sgt. Saile were pronounced accurate by Onions.

Serrano, who stood politely without prompting each time the jury entered and exited the courtroom, put on her distance eyeglasses to better see Onion's presentation, although she could not see the monitor herself.

Next a photograph purported to be a footprint or disturbed gravel was put on view.

Onions testified that it "could be typical of anything you could see in a mile stretch of gravel" along Sumner Road. He further maintained that if it were indeed a footprint, it had nothing to do with the accident. If it did there would be a tire track over it, he said, and there wasn't.

"If that's debris by it, the accident would have had to occur elsewhere. If it's a footprint, it could be anybody's," Onions said.

Next they considered the formula for how far the "throw" is for a human body depending on the speed a vehicle is traveling, which, when calculable, is made using the "Searle formula." It is determined by the degree of friction on a pedestrian and the total "flight distance" traveled/slid/thrown to the final resting place, in this case, a ditch.

Onions said he projected the distance that Lynskey's body traveled to be 60 feet from the roadway and he calculated that there is no scientific evidence to support that Serrano was traveling greater than 37.5 mph.

When Lynskey was struck on his right side, his body rotated after hitting the right side front fender, which caused the cover over the tire to become dislodged. His head is believed to have struck and cracked the windshield, damaging its supporting side post. Then he slammed against the right front side mirror, smashing it against the vehicle, before the trajectory away from the vehicle.

And yet Onions testified it was "iffy" and "on the line" as to whether or not this was a "full impact" crash.

In order to react to avoid a collision, the driver or pedestrian needs to be able to see -- something in the roadway, the oncoming traffic. In darkness, clothing that is light and/or reflective helps. If the road is unlit and the pedestrian is wearing dark clothes, as Lynskey was, he becomes invisible.

"You disappear," Onions told the jury.

He said the average person can see a pedestrian walking at a distance of 80 feet away. Traveling the speed limit on Sumner Road of 55 mph, that's roughly 80 feet per second. If Serrano was traveling at 37.5 mph and no more as Onions contends, that's still 55 feet per second -- or less than 2 seconds to react, on average.

"If you look at your speedometer for 1 second it may make all the difference in the world," Onions said.

Intoxication is another consideration.

Lynskey's BAC was determined by a Monroe County coroner to be .16, twice the legal limit. Serrano's BAC at the time is undocumented.

Deputy Henning reported that Serrano failed multiple parts of a field sobriety test after he stopped her vehicle on Route 77. The officer attempted a roadside Alco-sensor test but after Serrano blew once and it didn't register a reading, she wouldn't blow again. She also refused a Datamaster test at the Batavia Police Station and she refused three separate requests to submit to the test at Darien Town Court.

"It's very possible," Onions testified Friday, "that intoxication had nothing to do with it."

On this road with this shoulder, could (a pedestrian) tripping be a factor?" LoTempio asked his witness, who replied "yes."

Serrano, wearing dark pants, a black knit top and vivid blue sweater with a ruffled front, seemed to pay close attention to the proceedings as did all of the jurors, a panel of five men, seven women, and four alternates, who all appear to be caucasian but range widely in age.

Friedman then cross-examined Onions, eliciting from him that his payday for his efforts on behalf of the defense so far stands at about $8,000.

"Is it fair to say that if your conclusions didn't help the defendant you would have earned less?" Friedman asked.

"That's a true statement," Onions said.

In deconstructing the expert's curriculum vitae, Friedman pointed out that several of the state and national organizations that Onions claims he belongs to either do not list Onions as being a member, or his membership or certification expired years ago, or the organization is no longer viable, and in one case it was found to have granted membership for a fee to a person's cat.

The DA also noted that some crash test dummy testing that Onions boasts of performing was conducted in 1999 and involved an adult dummy in a wheelchair with a dummy child, and now-outmoded test equipment, vehicle materials and safety features.

From there, the district attorney tackled night visibility, asking whether pale, caucasian legs in shorts could increase visibility of the wearer. The response was no, but Friedman clarified it, saying visibility "assumes the driver is paying attention."

"Yes," Onions allowed.

But "you don't know if (Serrano) was paying attention," Friedman said, asking if the witness had ever spoken to his boss, the person he's working for, and Onions admitted he never has.

The fact cited earlier in the morning about the average driver being able to see a pedestrian 80 feet away, based on visibility studies by Dr. Paul Olson, was also not allowed to go unchallenged.

The DA said the study is dated -- from the early '80s -- and subsequent findings indicate that 50 percent of drivers can see a pedestrian at night 150 feet away. More recent studies put a visibility figure of 175 feet for pedestrians in dark clothes, 700 feet for those with light-reflective clothing on.

Modern halogen headlamps provide 151 to 178 feet of visibility, and on an unlit darkened road, Serrano should have been driving with high beams on (if there's no oncoming traffic). When asked, Onions said he did not know if Serrano had her high beams on that night.

Friedman also took Onions to task on his "body throw" measurement using the Searle formula, which cannot be used to calculate speed when there is an "iffy" partial or "noncomforming impact" in terms of body vs. vehicle.

"There is NO EVIDENCE to support ANY speed," Friedman said, and in fact, Serrano could have been going faster than the 37.5 mph Onions said is the limit supported by science.

From there, the DA quizzed the expert on his scientific basis for doubling the body throw trajectory -- from 30 to 60 feet.

Friedman said there's a cornucopia of factors from visibility and distance and rain and geography to type of headlamp and snowfall, in other words "there is no one size fits all," despite what Onions would like the jury to believe.

Moving along, the DA questioned why there is no mention of any alcohol consumption by Serrano in Onions' report.

Onions said it was not an issue.

With clear incredulousness in his voice, Friedman said her intoxication and driver's reaction were already testified to in this case.

Passenger Gilden's statements about their consumption of alcohol was also left out of Onions' report, the DA noticed.

Onions took pains to note that there was nothing to indicate swerving, loss of control or speeding, no tire marks, disturbed gravel or skids marks.

"No one said she swerved," Friedman said, as if puzzled by the point of those assertions.

In fact, there was no vehicle testing done on the roadway and therefore no scientific evidence to say Serrano didn't drive the entire length of Sumner Road along the shoulder.

"There is no evidence that she was in or out of her lane," Friedman said, and Onions conceded the point.

Serrano is charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

The case resumes at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 1.

June 26, 2019 - 9:17pm

Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Robert C. Henning took the stand today and recalled details about his arrest of alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano the night of a hit-and-run accident in Darien that killed 18-year-old Connor Lynskey of Hinckley last August. 

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman conducted a direct examination of the deputy in Genesee County Court today. Henning said that at approximately 1 a.m. on Aug. 11, he was traveling northbound on Route 77 to the county jail with an inmate who had just been arraigned in Darien Town Court.

Henning said that if Serrano's Jeep Wrangler had stayed on the shoulder of the road after she backed out of a driveway, he would have driven past her. However, the Jeep suddenly pulled onto Route 77 in front of the deputy's vehicle, which caused him to slam on his brakes to avoid a collision and swerve into the southbound lane of 77.

The deputy said he turned on his emergency lights and pulled over the Jeep moments after the near-collision. Serrano would have been charged with a minor traffic violation until Henning suspected she was impaired. Henning said he observed Serrano’s glassy eyes, slurred speech and a strong odor of alcohol on her breath.

Both Friedman and defense attorney Frank LoTempio entered Henning’s body camera footage into evidence so jurors could evaluate Henning and Serrano’s behaviors for themselves. Videos showed Serrano’s difficulty exiting her vehicle and maintaining her balance as she met Henning behind her vehicle.

Henning’s testimony revealed that Serrano’s statement to him about her whereabouts on Aug. 10 was not accurate. She said she traveled from Silver Creek, near Angola, to pick up her friend Candace Gilden from the Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. In reality, Serrano drove from Derby to the Town of Darien to also attend the concert. 

Henning said he could understand almost everything he was told by Serrano during the investigation. Friedman raised the question of whether Serrano’s alleged intoxication decreased her understanding of Henning’s directions. Serrano repeatedly asked about contacting family members, going to her friend’s home, and what was going to happen to herself and her vehicle. 

The deputy consistently answered her questions with the same answers, yet Serrano continued to ask them. In the body camera footage, Serrano also appeared to struggle with the instructions and sobriety test demonstrations given to her several times by Henning.

Henning testified that Serrano failed her "horizontal gaze nystagmus test" in which he moved a writing pen in front of Serrano as she attempted to follow its tip at different angles with her eyes.

During the walk-and-turn test, Serrano started the test too soon, raised her arms for balance and needed assistance to stay upright. Serrano did not walk heel to toe in a straight line, nor did she pivot correctly while turning nor take enough steps. Serrano therefore failed the test -- both when she wore flip-flops and while walking barefoot.

Serrano also failed a test where she was asked to raise her foot off the ground for half a minute, because she swayed, raised her arms for balance, and set her foot down before reaching 30 seconds. 

Henning said that when he asked Serrano to perform the alphabet from letter E to R, she failed to follow his instructions because she recited E through S before remembering she only needed to recite through R. LoTempio argued that his client performed the test correctly regardless of the small mistake.

Serrano lastly needed to blow into an Alco-Sensor breath-alcohol tester for a duration of time in order for an accurate blood-alcohol content reading to register. Since Serrano’s first test was insufficient and she avoided several attempts to submit to the test afterward, Henning placed her under arrest. 

During testimony today, Henning said Serrano also signed three refusal warning forms at the Batavia Police Department for refusing to submit to a DataMaster alcohol detection test in Batavia. She was later taken to Darien Town Court where her driver's license was suspended and then released from custody with tickets for allegedly drinking while intoxicated.

Serrano was charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Serrano never reported hitting anything during the four-and-a-half hours she was in the presence of Sheriff’s deputies, police officers and a judge. LoTempio countered that no law enforcement officials noticed her vehicle's damaged windshield and right-side rear-view exterior mirror until it was discovered on Aug. 12. 

LoTempio challenged Henning’s execution of the tests during cross examination by claiming that sobriety tests only indicate intoxication, if they are all performed correctly. Henning maintained that traffic, darkness and the slight slope of Route 77 were factors that should not have a significant impact on Serrano’s sobriety-test performance.

A pregnant pause filled the courtroom after LoTempio asked Henning a final question. If Serrano performed so poorly on tests while supposedly intoxicated with a BAC of 0.8, how could Lynskey have conducted himself normally while he was traveling on foot along Sumner Road with a 0.16 BAC at the time he was struck by Serrano’s vehicle? 

Her trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning at Genesee County Court.

June 25, 2019 - 8:51pm

Attorneys spent more than an hour hashing out details this afternoon with Candace Gilden about the moments before, during and after she rode with an alleged drunk driver the night of a hit-and-run accident in Darien that killed 18-year-old Connor Lynskey last August.

Passenger Gilden, driver Jennifer Serrano and pedestrian Lynskey had all departed a Jason Aldean concert on Aug. 10 at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center intending to safely to go to their destinations. 

Gilden, a 41-year-old former Derby resident, was a passenger in her friend Serrano’s Jeep Wrangler when Serrano unknowingly struck Lynskey on Sumner Road.

New evidence came to light in Genesee County Court today as Gilden was called upon by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman to recount her perception of that fateful night during direct examination.

She said that earlier in the afternoon of Aug. 10, she and Serrano, a 48-year-old resident of Irving, met up and consumed one alcoholic beverage each prior to purchasing more alcohol at Tops Friendly Market in Derby.

Serrano and Gilden packed coolers containing the beverages and traveled to a friend’s house on Route 77 near Darien Lake. There, they continued to drink as they set up a tent outside to sleep in after the concert.

The women drank in the Darien Lake parking lot, throughout the Aldean performance, and at an on-site after-party. Gilden testified that Serrano was behaving normally as they consumed alcohol. 

As the women walked to Serrano’s vehicle, Serrano insisted that she was OK to drive back to the friend’s house on Route 77. In the midst of traffic after the concert, and having a lack of familiarity with the area, the women became lost while driving down Sumner Road.

Gilden said she attempted to find their location on Google Maps and, therefore, was focused on her phone screen as Serrano drove on the dark road. 

Serrano reportedly turned around on Sumner Road in order to drive in the direction of Route 77. Gilden noticed that a crack in the windshield had formed and the right exterior rear-view mirror had been pushed toward the passenger door. Gilden maintained she did not see, hear or feel anything that could have caused the damage throughout her testimony.

Gilden then asked Serrano what had happened and, after getting no answer, turned down the loud music that was playing and asked again. Serrano responded that they needed to drive to her friend’s house.

The women continued driving without stopping to check the damage to the vehicle.

About 30 minutes later, Deputy Robert Henning pulled over Serrano after a near collision with his patrol vehicle and charged her with drunk driving when she reportedly failed field sobriety tests. Gilden later posted Serrano’s $1,000 bail at Genesee County Jail. 

After refueling her Jeep at a gas station on Route 77, Serrano allegedly drove her vehicle without a driver's license, which had just been revoked by the police due to her performance on the sobriety tests.   

The women returned to the area surrounding Sumner Road on Aug. 11 in an attempt to find where the vehicle sustained damage with little success.

Gilden testified that she felt physically ill that evening when she received news that Lynskey, of Hinckley, had been killed on Sumner Road in the early hours of Aug. 11. Gilden described the surprised expression on Serrano’s face upon relaying the information to her.

On Aug. 12, Gilden gave a statement to Genesee County Sheriff's deputies about her understanding of the situation. Serrano was charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

On cross examination, defense attorney Frank LoTempio debated whether jurors should trust Gilden’s interpretation of Serrano's behavior and actions as well as the accident, since Gilden admitted she was impaired by alcohol on Aug. 10 and 11.

Gilden also maintained that her attention was diverted to her phone at the time of the collision, so LoTempio argued it is difficult for her to know if Serrano drove in an erratic manner.

LoTempio fired a crucial line of questioning at Gilden about whether the vehicle struck something or if something hit the vehicle on Sumner Road. This argument — that Lynskey may have tripped into Serrano’s vehicle due to the poorly lit road and his 0.16 blood alcohol content — is the question that defense counsel also begs of jurors.

The trial will draw nearer to that answer at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Genesee County Court.

June 25, 2019 - 2:22pm
posted by Lauren Leone in news, darien lake, fatal accident, jennifer serrano, notify.

Details about the events surrounding the fatal Darien hit-and-run last August are emerging as opening statements and first witnesses are heard in the case of 48-year-old Jennifer L. Serrano.

Today is the first trial day for Irving, Chautauqua County, resident.

During his opening remarks, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman informed jurors of: the basic overview of the accident; some of the individuals they can expect to hear from throughout court proceedings; and a brief account of the actions taken by both the victim, 18-year-old Connor Lynskey, and the defendant in connection to the accident.

Friedman explained to jurors the four counts Serrano is charged with: second-degree vehicular manslaughter, which, as a result of alleged intoxication, caused Serrano to drive her Jeep in a manner that killed Lynskey; leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it; driving while intoxicated; and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Defense attorney Frank LoTempio delivered his opening statement next. He said that defense counsel does not intend to argue that Serrano did not drink and drive, nor that her vehicle did not strike Lynskey and cause his death.

However, LoTempio maintained that the tragedy may not have resulted from Serrano’s reported intoxication, and that Lynskey’s 0.16 BAC at the time of his death may have led him to walk into Serrano’s traffic lane. 

LoTempio encouraged jurors to pay close attention to evidence of Serrano’s conduct as she was questioned by officers at the time of her arrest, the darkness of the accident scene, and the accident reconstruction information that is expected to arise later in the trial.

The prosecution called its first witness, Dr. Nadia Granger, who performed Lynskey’s autopsy at the Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner. She told the court that Lynskey endured injuries to his right shoulder, facial bones, skull and brain. These injuries are consistent with his cause of death, which is multiple blunt force injuries, and the damage sustained by the right side of Serrano’s vehicle.

The prosecution also brought forward Hunter Richard, a longtime friend of Lynskey’s who also attended the Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Aug. 10 with Lynskey.

Richard recounted the events that occurred on Aug. 10 and 11 and his rationale for walking along Sumner Road in Darien as he and his friends returned to Darien Lakes State Park campground. 

Richard testified that Lynskey was behaving normally as they walked to the campsite, so impairment by alcohol was not a factor in Lynskey's death in his opinion.

LoTempio challenged Richard’s account of his proximity to the roadway, the collision sound heard by the teens, and the safety measures taken the night of the accident.

Both counsels will call more witnesses and introduce new evidence to the jurors as the trial proceeds this afternoon and throughout the week.

January 14, 2019 - 9:16pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, jennifer serrano, Darien, fatal hit-and-run.

An evidentiary hearing that grew testy at times was held in Genesee County Court this afternoon in the case of Jennifer L. Serrano.

The 48-year-old who lives on Charles Street in Irving is charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old Connor Lynskey and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. She remains in jail on $100,000 bail or $200,000 bond.

It is alleged that in the early morning hours of Aug. 11 that an intoxicated Serrano struck and killed Lynskey, of Hinckley, on Sumner Road in Darien but didn't stop to help or call the police. Lynskey was reported missing that night after the Jason Aldean concert and officers patrolled the area, including Sumner Road, but nobody saw Lynskey or any evidence of an accident.

The next morning, Deputy Richard Schildwaster, checking Sumner Road, found debris in the roadway and when he got out of his vehicle and looked around, he found Lynskey's body in a ditch.

How Serrano first came to the attention of Sheriff's Deputy Robert Henning was part of the testimony given at what is known as a Huntley hearing to determine what will be admitted into evidence. It is believed that Henning encountered Serrano after the fatal hit-and-run had occurred.

Under questioning from District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, Henning said at 12:56 a.m. he was traveling northbound on Route 77 heading to the county jail with a male who had just been arraigned in Darien Town Court on a criminal mischief charge.

Henning said he noticed a white Jeep Wrangler backing out of a residential driveway and it was stationary on the eastside of the roadway. 

Under questioning from one of two defense lawyers present, Henning later noted that when he spotted the Jeep he was traveling 55 to 60 miles an hour in a 55-mph zone. Traffic was moderate that evening, he said, due to the concert ending at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center not long before.

If Serrano's vehicle had stayed on the shoulder, he said he would have driven past her. But suddenly the Jeep pulled onto northbound 77 right in front of the deputy's vehicle and Henning said he had no reason to anticipate the Jeep's action and did not slow down.

Instead, he slammed on his brakes to avoid a collision and swerved into the southbound lane of 77, where "fortunately, no cars were coming."

Defense Attorney Frank LoTiempo asked if the soon-to-be-inmate in the backseat of the patrol vehicle was injured in the violent slamming on of brakes and if injuries were reported. Henning said he recalls some part of the arrestee "moving forward and some contact was made" with the divider between the front and rear seats, but no injuries were sustained, thus none reported.

"Were there skid marks?" LoTiempo asked.

"I didn't look," Henning said.

Upon further questioning, Henning noted that he took no pictures at the scene and could not recall which driveway the Jeep had backed out of.

LoTiempo asked that the name of the male in Young's custody at the time be determined and provided to the defense in case they decide to interview him about what he saw or heard.

Next, Henning said he turned on his emergency lights and pulled behind the Jeep, which pulled over after a couple hundred feet and stopped.

He said he approached the driver, whom he identified in court as Serrano, who sat in beige pants and an orange hoodie, shackled, at the defense table, her dark hair up in a coarse braid, reading glasses propped on her head. Serrano smiled a couple of times at three family members in the gallery; she largely seemed dazed during the hearing.

Henning said she had trooper stickers on her windows and he asked her about them, and she replied that some members of her family were retired from law enforcement.

The reason she was pulled over -- pulling out suddenly into traffic -- would have been simply a traffic violation -- moving from lane unsafely -- until Henning suspected Serrano was impaired. He said Serrano told him she was returning from the Silver Lake area and he observed she had bloodshot, glassy eyes, slurred speach and he detected the strong odor of alcohol on her breath.

He asked her to exit the vehicle and when she did she "misjudged the depth of the ground" and got off balance, but used the door to steady herself and was able to "stagger" to the rear of the vehicle by using it to "keep from swaying back and forth" while he talked with her.

Henning testified that he activated his body camera when he approached Serrano and that footage would also show Deputy Jenna Ferrando.

LoTiempo asked the deputy if he had the body cam on the entire time during his shift. Henning replied that he always had it on his person just not always on, but that it may have been on while he was at Darien Lake.

"She seemed fidgety, uncomfortable and nervous," Henning told Friedman.

"Did you ask her if she had something to drink?" Friedman asked.

"She said she had earlier in the day, then she said she had none," Henning said.

Once Henning knew Serrano was not going to be getting back into the Jeep to drive, a half hour to 40 minutes after encountering the defendant, her Miranda rights (to have an attorney, to not answer questions, etc.) were not read, Henning testified under questioning from LoTiempo. Yet the defense attorney said one of two DVDs entered into evidence today will show that Serrano says she asserts her right to say nothing and still the deputy talks with her about a Breathalyzer test. 

LoTiempo said a "7-10-30" notice was filled out but nothing was noted about the deputy asking her about drinking.

Next up to testify was Deputy Ryan Young, who spoke about his assignment Aug. 12 -- to take two deputies to the Buffalo Airport so they could travel for training then go to 23 Opal Court in Amherst. That's where the defendant's sister Mary Brillhart lives. He was to make sure Serrano's Jeep, which was parked in the garage, stayed in the garage.

Young said he got there about 4:30 a.m. and waited three hours until Sheriff's Investigator Christopher Parker got there with a search warrant.

At about 7:25, Young, Investigator Parker and two officers from the Amherst Police Department converged at the property. Young said he approached the "man door" on the side of the garage, saw Serrano inside the garage and activated his body cam; he asked her to open the door, whereupon she opened the overhead garage door. Young said he saw that the damage to the Jeep was consistent with the damage specified in the hit-and-run report.

Parker, according to Young, asked Serrano if she knew why law enforcement was there.

"I imagine you found my (suicide) note at my house," Serrano replied.

After Serrano was arrested her Miranda rights were read to her.

Young testified that she subsequently asked him to retrieve reading glasses from the house for her and flip-flops from the Jeep, and when he got the latter, he found a bottle of clonazapam in plain view. Young drove her silently on a 40-minute ride to the Genesee County Jail. Once there, he asked her how many of the pills she had taken; "one" she said. "Not enough to overdose?" he asked. "No, that was the plan," Serrano replied.

Young told the court that he was concerned about what amount of the drug she had in her system because she was being processed into jail.

Sanchez asked if Serrano was asked questions after her Miranda rights were read.

Young testified that a few were, such as "How can I reach your sister?" "What is her (sister's) first name?" "Does she know what happened?" "Did you leave the note inside or outside your house?"

Sanchez raised issues about the "affirmative questions" Serrano had been asked while interacting with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office personnel. The DA objected and asked what "affirmative questions" were and said the questions speak for themselves and it is not for Deputy Young to classify them in a particular way because the defense asks him to. The judge sustained the objection.

Sanchez asked if Young's body cam was on the whole time that day.

"I recall that I turned the camera off when I went to use the bathroom," Young deadpanned.

The question of when the defense counsel "attaches" to Serrano was debated in this Huntley hearing. Was it at the time she retained attorney Michael Caffery for a misdemeanor DWI arraignment in Darien Town Court? Or was it after that DWI, or once the hit-and-run fatal were suspected of being connected to the arrest made by Henning when LoTiempo and Sanchez were hired?

The defense then called its sole witness, attorney Caffery, who testified he was retained for $500 and met with Serrano at the jail. After speaking with dispatch about damage to the Jeep, he thought there was more to the case than a misdemeanor DWI.

Caffery, Serrano and "a third party" -- a woman who had been a passenger in Serrano's vehicle -- subsequently met at the Tim Hortons in Derby (Erie County).

"What was said?" Friedman asked.

That prompted the defense to object because they specifically wanted to limit Caffery's testimony to the fact that he had been retained for the misdemeanor DWI and that there was property damage to the Jeep.

LoTiempo argued -- with hands on hips, then his right hand jabbing the air with the forefinger and pinkie sticking out belligerently -- that the conversation was covered by attorney-client privilege and therefore off limits for cross-examination.

Friedman rejected his assertion, saying that Caffery is a witness that he has the right to cross-examine and that the presence of a third party negates the attorney-client privilege argument.

Judge Zambito overruled the objection and called for the witness to answer the question. LoTiempo -- hanging his head toward the floor dejectedly as he sat sideways at the defense table, his fist in a knot -- reared up to renew his argument.

The heated scenario prompted the judge to call the lawyers into his chambers for a 10-minute recess.

It seemed to tax the victim's parents, who had sat throughout the proceedings with great poise along with three other adults in the front row.

The mother began to cry as she briefly exited the gallery, sobbing halfway down the aisle. She returned composed.

The issues of Caffery's attorney-client privilege and what was said at Tim Hortons were not revisited by Friedman after court resumed.

The case is next on the docket for 1:45 p.m. on March 13.


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