A Buffalo man was ordered to remain jailed without bail after he pleaded not guilty today to vehicular manslaughter, felony drunken driving and traffic charges for the October death of a female passenger in the van he was driving on the Kensington Expressway.
Senior Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico refused to release Michael J. McHenry, 43, of Barnard Avenue, on bail after prosecutors mentioned his prior DWI conviction and the fact that he was driving a company van with a passenger during the Oct. 27 accident.
A half dozen relatives of the victim, Heather Fowler, 31, of Hoover Avenue, Kenmore, were in the courtroom.
McHenry did not speak after entering his not guilty plea.
D'Amico scheduled a March 7 trial and said he will hear pretrial motions in February.
Prosecutors Mario Alberto Giacobbi and J. Patrick Lennon said McHenry was off-duty and driving his company's refrigerator van when he crashed at the Delavan Avenue curve entering the Kensington. The van struck a concrete median and fence.
The victim was partially ejected from the van and died at the scene when her body slammed into a utility pole, the prosecutors said. Giacobbi and Lennon declined comment when asked why Fowler was in the van, but they confirmed that McHenry had full-time use of the vehicle.
Neither the prosecutors nor court officials would identify McHenry's employer.
At the time of the fatal crash, McHenry had a restricted driver's license as a result of a 1998 DWI conviction in Monroe County and he was driving home after a court appearance for unrelated traffic charges, said Giacobbi, chief of the Erie County DA's DWI Bureau.
Kenmore police said McHenry had been arrested two days before the fatal crash on charges of reckless driving and other traffic offenses after he allegedly nearly struck a pedestrian on Hoover Avenue in the village. McHenry had been in custody about four hours after that Kenmore arrest.