NORWICH – At noon Monday, the prosecution rested in the murder retrial of Peter M. Wlasiuk.
District Attorney Joseph A. McBride concluded his case before Broome County Court Judge Martin E. Smith. Wlasiuk’s Attorney Randel Scharf then began his defense after a one-hour recess.
Wlasiuk is accused of second degree murder in the 2002 death of his wife Patricia. This is the second time McBride has prosecuted Wlasiuk; the original guilty verdict was overturned on appeal in 2006 due to procedural errors in the first trial.
Key witnesses in the prosecution’s case over the last three weeks included:
Testified she overheard Peter Wlasiuk brag about killing someone in Guilford Lake in 2001, while sitting at Wlasiuk’s bar, The Angel Inn (formerly The Pillars) in Guilford about a year before the alleged murder took place.
Golden quoted Wlasiuk saying, ‘Say I wanted to put someone in Guilford Lake ... the thing to do would be to get a bucket or a container of water from the lake and drown them in that, then throw the body in the lake.”
Patricia Wlasiuk’s mother testified she did not have a good relationship with her son-in-law and that he controlled her daughter to the point that they saw very little of each other outside of work.
“She pretty much did what Pete wanted her to do,” Cardozo said on the stand.
The outdoorsman was hunting with a friend on the land adjacent to the Wlasiuks’ along New Virginia Road, Oxford, in mid-November 2001.
Edick testified that he and his friend heard a loud argument taking place near the Wlasiuk residence and that he walked out to see what the commotion was about.
“I heard him say, ‘Don’t ever speak to me like that again or I’ll kill you,’” testified Edick. The witness also said he watched with hunting binoculars as Peter Wlasiuk struck his wife “two to three times.”
Friend of Patricia Wlasiuk testified that she witnessed Peter Wlasiuk threaten his wife at a party she hosted on Labor Day weekend of 2001. Hoag said Peter threatened to hurt Patricia if any of the kids got hurt at the party.
A resident living on Guilford Lake at the time of the incident. She testified that on the night of Patricia’s death, she heard no screams or screeching tires, only a truck door slam. Palmer said she was about 180 feet away and watching TV when she heard a door slam before going to bed.
Thomas and Jessica Becker
All three were staying in a nearby lake house on the night of Patricia’s death and were the first three Peter Wlasiuk had contact with after the alleged accident.
They were suddenly awakened at about 12:30 a.m. by Wlasiuk banging on the cabin walls and front door. All three testified they heard no sounds of an accident or screaming before a “hysterical” Peter Wlasiuk came to their cottage looking for help.
They each recalled that Wlasiuk demanded they call 911 and the couple’s baby-sitter, Joyce Worden.
She told the court that she remembered Wlasiuk being soaked, except his hair did not appear wet.
Thomas Becker and Steven Schweichler
Drove with Wlasiuk down the road to try to find Patricia. Both men testified they believe Wlasiuk had told them he was driving the truck, not his wife as the defense contends.
Schweichler stayed at the water’s edge with Wlasiuk and said he tried to get information from him while Becker went back to the house to get a wet suit.
Schweichler claimed Wlasiuk told him not to go into the water. On cross-examination, Scharf revealed that in Schweichler’s three prior statements to police dated April 3, 6 and 15 in 2002, he never mentioned that Wlasiuk had told him to stay out of the water.
Both men attempted to reach the truck, but said they couldn’t because the water was so cold.
The first EMT to examine Wlasiuk testified he appeared to be exaggerating his condition on the night of the incident.
“In my opinion, based on my training and the people I’ve worked with, he appeared to be acting in an exaggerated fashion,” said Martin. He said Wlasiuk did not appear to be wet.
Dr. Safa Naman
Emergency room doctor at The Hospital in Sidney who pronounced Patricia dead on arrival at 1:20 a.m. He also examined Peter an hour later for hypothermia. Naman said he found no signs of hypothermia and that Wlasiuk’s body temperature was 99.5 degrees, above the normal core temperature.
“After being in the lake, it’s very unlikely to warm back up, in my opinion, after only two hours,” said Naman.
Carol L. Olmstead
A nurse at The Hospital in Sidney, she claimed Peter Wlasiuk’s hair was not wet and that he wanted to promptly donate his wife organs just hours after her death.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Clarence T. Ellingsen
Was assigned to chaperone Peter Wlasiuk on the night of the incident just after he arrived at the scene at 12:50 a.m.
Ellingsen said Wlasiuk’s hair was dry, but did not record the observation in his notes in 2002.
At 3:40 a.m. Wlasiuk gave his first written statement at the hospital. He stated he was unable to pull his wife out of the truck’s cab, but Ellingsen testified that Wlasiuk said he had pulled her free three hours earlier.
He also testified that Wlasiuk demanded his wife be blood-tested to prove she was not drinking.
Sheriff’s Lt. James E. Lloyd
He interviewed Peter Wlasiuk on April 5 because “Patricia Wlasiuk’s coworkers had expressed serious concerns, and the evidence regarding the accident did not match up with his story,” he said.
Wlasiuk gave Lloyd a detailed timeline of the events of the night his wife died at Guilford Lake.
10-10:30 p.m. The Angel Inn bar closes; Wlasiuk then drives home.
11:50-55 p.m. Patricia Wlasiuk arrived home. The couple has a disagreement about who was supposed to pick up the children.
12:05-10 a.m. Peter calls Worden saying that Patricia and himself will be driving over at that time to pick up the children.
12:15 a.m. The couple departs from their Oxford residence on New Virginia Road.
12:15-12:45 a.m. Patricia drives the truck down to County Road 35. Peter said he felt the cab become cooler and turned his head left to notice Patricia flicking a cigarette out the window. As he turns his attention back to the road, he suddenly sees a deer in the roadway. Patricia then swerves left toward the lake, and the truck fishtails back to the right. Then suddenly the two crash into Guilford Lake.
Wlasiuk told Lloyd that he grabs Patricia by the collar and attempted to pull her out. He claimed he was sucked from the vehicle and somersaulted beneath it, losing his grip on Patricia.
Following the drive shaft, Wlasiuk climbed his way toward the surface and swam to shore.
Wlasiuk admitted the couple was involved with their baby-sitter, Joyce Worden, in a three-way sexual relationship for about six months, but tensions had been taking place in the time before Patricia’s murder because Peter Wlasiuk was having sexual intercourse with Worden at the Angel Inn without his wife’s knowledge.
The insurance company attorney read a transcript from a July 18, 2002 interview with Wlasiuk that took place at the old Chenango County Sheriff’s Office depicting a completely separate version of events surrounding his wife’s death than allegedly given to police.
The insurance investigation involved a claim on the 1998 GMC truck that went into the lake on the night of the incident.
During the 23-minute interview, Wlasiuk told Leonard he made Patricia turn the vehicle around while in a heated dispute because he suddenly realized she had been drinking.
According to Peter, Patricia stopped the vehicle and began a K-turn in the middle of County Rt. 35 and while in the course of this maneuver, she mistakenly accelerated the truck off the road, through the guardrail and into Guilford Lake.
Leonard told the court that Peter Wlasiuk told him he never told anyone he was driving the truck and lied to investigators about swerving to miss a deer because at the time he didn’t want the police to arrest his wife for DWI.
Medical Examiner Dr. James Terzian
Performed Patricia Wlasiuk’s autopsy in 2002. According to his findings, he said he believes Patricia’s cause of death was “asphyxiation due to suffocation caused by pressure placed over her chest, neck and mouth.”
Terzian testified that all of Patricia Wlasiuk’s wounds had blood flow at the time they happened, meaning they occurred antemortem, or before death.
Scharf questioned Terzian on why his preliminary pathology report on April 3 and the death certificate signed by the doctor listed drowning as the cause of death. He told the defense that it was only a preliminary report.
Pathologist Dr. Michael M. Baden
Both Baden and Terzian testified that according to their forensic investigations and medical examinations, Patricia Wlasiuk was suffocated and her body was then placed into the lake.
Baden told the jury of eight women and four men, “She died as a result of smothering and then her dead body was placed in the lake.”
Baden mentioned that although water had not been found in Patricia Wlasiuk’s lungs, blood was.
“She was sucking blood into her lungs before she died. In my opinion, she was bleeding in the mouth and was still alive and there was no water involved,” said Baden.
State Police Forensic Scientist and DNA expert confirmed to the court that the DNA testing of the hairs found in the bed of Peter Wlasiuk’s truck and the hairs found on a burdocks branch at the couple’s Oxford residence match Patricia Wlasiuk’s profile.
Sgt. Detective Richard Cobb
In charge of accident reconstruction in 2002. After taking photographs and examining the tire marks found by deputies across the road from the accident, Cobb drew a preliminary sketch of the car’s hypothetical trajectory that led it into the lake.
The sketch showed a very gradual curve toward the 33-foot-wide area of the lake shore unprotected by guard rails.
Cobb rejected the claim made by the defendant that the couple had been traveling at approximately 60 miles per hour when Patricia allegedly swerved to avoid hitting a deer then “fishtailed” before plunging through the divide and into the lake.
“We found no indication this accident was caused by a high rate of speed,” said Cobb.
Cobb testified that the lack of skid marks and yawing (the marks made when a vehicle rotates along its vertical axis in a skid) indicate that the vehicle was never out of control.
“There was no way that a vehicle could have been going any faster than 30 miles per hour without leaving any marks. Any more than 30 mph and you’d lose control.”
Sgt. Andrew Frate
An accident reconstruction specialist for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Testified to his findings during his examination of the alleged Guilford Lake accident.
“In my opinion this entire incident was staged and claimed to be an accident. It’s filled with inconsistencies and impossibilities,” Frate told Wlasiuk’s jury of eight women and four men.
Frate offered his primary theory in court, citing what his investigation lead him to believe:
Peter Wlasiuk kills his wife at their residence in Oxford by suffocating her and gets burdocks on the body during a struggle. He then places Patricia’s body in the back of his dual wheel pick-up, concealing her body in the truck’s heavy duty tool box for transport to Guilford Lake. Once at the lake, Frate believes Wlasiuk pulled over on the side of the road and waited for an opportunity to remove Patricia’s body from the tool box and put place it in the truck bed. During the course of moving the body, Frate surmises Patricia’s pager fell into the back of the truck, where it was later discovered by investigators. Wlasiuk then gets back into the truck and drives to the top of the Black residence’s driveway, where a 33-foot gap in the guardrails opens up. He puts the vehicle in neutral before exiting. He then reaches in through the open driver’s side window to the column-mounted shift, putting the vehicle from neutral into drive. Frate then says he believes Wlasiuk watched the truck careen down the hill and slip into the water...
Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Meade
First police officer on the scene and testified he discovered Wlasiuk “soaking wet and shivering profusely” alongside the County Route 35 next to where the accident took place.
After additional emergency personnel arrived, Meade said he began searching the area of the alleged accident and discovered dual tire tracks on the far shoulder, across from where the truck went into the lake that appeared to belong to Wlasiuk’s truck. Meade said he then closed off the area.
An insurance agent who sold a life insurance policy to Peter Wlasiuk for a $100,000 on his wife in 2001, three months before her death. The policy was required in order to secure a business loan from NBT to purchase the Pillars bar in Guilford.
After Patricia Wlasiuk’s death, Beckwith said Peter Wlasiuk called to collect on the policy at around noon the following day.
Beckwith testified that Wlasiuk got angry with him on the phone because of a two-year condition that allowed the company to contest the payment if any of the paper work contained a false statement.
“He had no sorrow in for his wife in his voice at this point and was only really worried about the life insurance,” said Beckwith, recalling the phone conversation.