A city motel owner said he was both shocked and embarrassed when he spent three hours in jail Wednesday after he was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
Cascades Motel Owner Sharan J. Singh, who vehemently denied any wrongdoing Thursday, is accused of being aware of an underage drinking party at the motel New Year's Eve that figured in the death of a Lewiston man.
Michael Zawada, 19, was left lying on Niagara Falls Boulevard after a fight that started after he was called to the hotel by his 17-year-old sister, who was attending the party. She had told her brother she had been arguing with another teenager and needed her brother's help, police said.
One motorist swerved to avoid Zawada in the street but a second motorist struck the Niagara-Wheatfield High School graduate. Zawada was pronounced dead at the scene.
District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III said a Niagara County grand jury last month reviewed the circumstances surrounding Zawada's death.
"During the investigation, it developed the motel owner was aware there was going to be an underage drinking party," Murphy said.
Key evidence in the grand jury investigation that led to Singh's arrest was a statement from an 18-year-old woman who said it was made clear to Singh that the room was being rented for a party where there would be underage drinking.
"People are making up stories," said Singh, who has owned the motel for four years.
The grand jury did not indict Singh, 53, who lives in the motel at 7804 Niagara Falls Blvd., but filed a misdemeanor complaint for endangering the welfare of a child.
"I don't know anything," said Singh. He said he did everything he could to cooperate with police, including giving them the registration cards of the 18-year-old who rented the room. Singh said motel policy is that you must be 18 to rent a room.
He also said he did try to step in when things got out of hand.
Singh was arraigned in City Court and posted $500 bail. He returns to court May 4.
News staff reporter Thomas J. Prohaska contributed to this story.