Defense plants seeds of doubt in Wlasiuk case

NORWICH – Police investigators went way beyond the scope of evidence in theorizing that Patricia Wlasiuk was murdered, the defense’s key expert witness testified Tuesday.

Retired New York State Trooper Dale J. Leonard, who operates his own accident reconstruction consultant firm, testified for the defense in the Peter M. Wlasiuk murder retrial at the Chenango County Courthouse yesterday.

“I don’t know if it was an accident or a deliberate act, but there is no evidence to the theories put forth by these officers of the vehicle being stopped before going down the hill and into the lake,” said Leonard, referring to prosecution witnesses Sgt. Detective Richard Cobb and Monroe County Sheriff Sgt. Andrew Frate. The two officers testified earlier to a number of details involving what they claimed was a staged accident.

“So there is no physical evidence to support those theories?” asked Defense Attorney Randel Scharf.

“It’s speculation, in my opinion,” replied Leonard.

Leonard has had hundreds of hours of training in accident reconstruction since he was first certified in 1995. He listed dozens of training seminars and classes he’d taken to the jury before beginning his testimony regarding the alleged accident that claimed Patricia Wlasiuk’s life on April 3, 2002.

Leonard’s testimony was brought under intense scrutiny by District Attorney Joseph McBride, who was warned by Broome County Court Judge Martin E. Smith to stop interrupting the witness. Smith made the same warning to McBride earlier in the day when the DA cross-examined private investigator David Beers. “You’ve done it with every witness. Do it one more time and I’ll end your cross-examination,” said the judge during Leonard’s testimony.

Leonard reviewed his findings in court by beginning with the tire tracks found on the right side of the roadway across from the scene of the alleged accident.

Leonard said Cobb could not identify any treads in the tracks and neglected to measure their width for comparison to the Wlasiuk vehicle.

“Since there’s no way to even compare the marks with the truck’s tires, we can’t even be sure if they really belong to it,” said Leonard.

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