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Truck driver gets up to 3 years in prison for fatal drunken driving crash

A remorseful Cheektowaga truck driver was ordered Monday to serve one to three years in prison for the fatal drunken driving crash he caused last year on Benzinger Street.

Gary H. Landwehr, 32, of North Pleasant Parkway, was taken from court in handcuffs after telling the judge "I regret every day what I've done" in causing the death of Norman Michalski, 70, of Lovejoy Street.

Landwehr, who had been free on bail until Monday morning, pleaded guilty July 10 to second-degree vehicular manslaughter, the highest count lodged against him by an Erie County grand jury for the fatal crash on Benzinger near Vanderbilt Street about 1:40 a.m. Aug. 15, 2007.

Currently in a court fight for custody of his two children, Landwehr told Senior Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico "I look at my kids and I think of the family that I've ruined."

Lynette M. Reda, chief of the district attorney's Vehicular Crimes Bureau, said Michalski and his wife, Susan Skierczynski, 42, who was severely injured in the crash, have a young child. Reda said Skierczynski, who was not in court for the sentencing, was hospitalized for three months because of the internal injuries she suffered in the fatal crash.

Reda told the judge that Landwehr had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.12 percent when he slammed his pickup truck into Michalski's car after speeding through a stop sign. The state's legal limit is .08 percent.

At the request of Joseph J. Terranova, Landwehr's attorney, D'Amico said Landwehr could ask state prison officials for placement in a boot camp-style "shock incarceration" program, which could lead to his release should he successfully complete the military-style program. The judge made it clear that he has no say over placements in the program.

Noting that Landwehr began alcoholism counseling two weeks ago, but conceding that was "too little, too late," Terranova also asked the judge to impose a brief local jail term so his client can continue getting the rehabilitation he needs and "still send a message to the community" about drunken driving. D'Amico refused that request.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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