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Officer testifies about accident



Published: Thu, October 19, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defense lawyer established that his client had the right of way.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Patrolman Doug Pesa testified that Wendy Manis tried to lift herself up by clutching a seat belt and begged paramedics to get her out of her car.

Pesa, who responded to the 4:04 a.m. crash on North Hazelwood on Oct. 6, said an accident investigator was called to the scene and he proceeded to St. Elizabeth Health Center, arriving likely 10 minutes after Manis.

"The nurse advised me that she passed away," Pesa said from the witness stand Wednesday in municipal court.

Manis, 25, of Austintown, was buried as Wendy Tarr Ciavarella, her aunt has said.

Pesa's testimony was subpoenaed for Michael J. Behanna's preliminary hearing. Behanna, 27, of North Brockway Avenue, is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, a felony, and misdemeanor counts of operating a vehicle impaired and driving under suspension.

When the hearing concluded, Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly bound the felony charge over to a Mahoning County grand jury and set the misdemeanor charges for a pretrial hearing Nov. 6. Behanna's bond is 310,000.

Pesa testified that when he arrived at the crash scene, Behanna was walking on Hazelwood near Russell Street hollering, "What have I done? What have I done?"

The officer said Manis' Dodge Neon was struck by the Lincoln that Behanna was driving as she backed out of her boyfriend's driveway. The Neon had bent around a tree, reports show.

Sobs from the victim's family and friends in the gallery could be heard as Pesa testified. Behanna sat quietly at the defense table.

Bret Hartup, an assistant city prosecutor, asked Pesa to describe what he observed about Behanna at the crash scene.

The officer said Behanna was emotional, uncooperative, had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage and "asked how she [Manis] was."

License suspended

Pesa said he learned that Behanna's driver's license was under suspension and a check revealed that Behanna did not own the car he was driving.

The officer said a man found lying near a fence, who had been a passenger in Behanna's car, also smelled of an alcoholic beverage.

Behanna's lawyer, John F. Shultz, asked about skid marks. Pesa said skid marks on the street near the driveway were from sliding tires, not from braking tires.

The lawyer asked about his client's right of way traveling on Hazelwood. "Anyone exiting a driveway would have to yield to Mr. Behanna?"

"Correct," Pesa answered.

Shultz said he hadn't yet received a report from the prosecution of his client's blood alcohol content. The lawyer said he will subpoena Manis' blood alcohol content.

Past convictions

Records show Behanna's past impaired driving convictions:

December 1997, Austintown, pleaded no contest to an amended charge. He received 30 days in jail, all suspended, 250 fine, 50 suspended, and one year's probation. He was ordered to attend a 72-hour driver's intervention program. (Arrest on driving under the influence charge was May 1997 by Ohio State Highway Patrol).

November 1998, Austintown, pleaded no contest. He received 30 days in jail with 27 suspended, 500 fine with 300 suspended, and one year's probation. In lieu of three days' incarceration, the court said he could attend a 72-hour driver's intervention program. (Arrest on DUI was August 1998 by Austintown police).

November 2000, Austintown, pleaded guilty. He received 90 days in jail with 80 suspended, 350 fine and one year's probation. (Arrest on DUI charge was July 2000 by Austintown police.)

In an unrelated matter, also on Tuesday, Behanna had a preliminary hearing in Mahoning County Court, Austintown, on a charge of receiving stolen property (a vehicle) that was filed in late April, records show. The case was bound over to a Mahoning County grand jury.

His bond in that case is 150,000.

meade@vindy.com




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