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Loved ones incredulous as the death of Alix Rice brings a stunning verdict

Alix Rice's mother, Tammy A. Schueler, shook her head slowly in a state of utter disbelief as she learned that the man who ran over her daughter with his BMW and didn't stop to help her was guilty of nothing more than a misdemeanor.

The dead girl's father, Richard J. Rice, stared straight ahead as the jury foreman said "not guilty" over and over in Erie County Court to the charges that, upon conviction, would have put Dr. James G. Corasanti behind bars.

Schueler's boyfriend, who had been sitting next to her, couldn't help blurting out an expletive. A court officer quickly and quietly escorted him out of the courtroom.

Friends and family of Alexandria "Alix" Rice, the 18-year-old who was riding her long board home on the night of July 8 in Amherst when she was struck by Corasanti's car, had filled one side of the basement courtroom as deliberations drew to a close.

Wednesday night, they walked out of the courtroom wiping away tears and gripping one another's hands.

But no one looked more broken, more shattered than Tammy Schueler.

"What the ?" she cried, almost collapsing in the arms of lawyer Terrence M. Connors, who is representing her daughter's estate in a civil case against Corasanti. "Is there anything other you can say?"

A pretrial conference on the civil case is set for Friday.

The family originally had planned to give a news conference at the District Attorney's Office after the verdict was read.

But with emotions running high, the family members changed their minds and went home, Connors told The Buffalo News.

"They were devastated by the verdict," he said. "Very emotionally upset. Frankly, they just had a lot of questions."

They couldn't understand how the jury could find Corasanti not guilty on all five felony counts.

"They were hoping for some justice," Connors said. "They don't feel they received it."

He said the verdict was like losing their child all over again.

"They really felt the trauma all over again for the loss of their child," Connors said. "That's what they felt."

But, he said, they also made sure to express their gratitude to the prosecutors who tried to put Corasanti behind bars.

"They thanked them for the countless number of hours they put in on their daughter's behalf," Connors said.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said he didn't have a chance to speak directly with Rice's family after the verdict.

But if he had, he would have apologized for the outcome. "What I would say to the family is I'm sorry," Sedita told reporters. "I wish the verdict would have been different. I hope you understand that we tried the case as well as we could, as hard as we could, as professionally as we could. We devoted every resource of this office to the trial in this case. I'm sorry."

Late Wednesday night, a crowd gathered for an impromptu vigil at the spot on Heim Road where Alix Rice was killed almost a year ago.

Some lit candles in memory of the young woman. Others left silk flowers.

"I love you, Alix," read one message written in chalk. The verdict, the message read, "doesn't mean your memory won't be with us."

Tory Sharon, 18, who attended Williamsville North High School with Rice and lives down the street from her mother, was outraged by the verdict.

"All I could do was put my head in my hands. I really had nothing to say, just silence is the best answer," she said.

" As you can tell from all the bright colors [at her roadside memorial], Alix was a completely and totally wonderful person," Sharon said, "and even though she's gone, she still influences us and affects us on a day-to-day basis."

email: mbecker@buffnews.com and hmcneil@buffnews.com