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Family drama leads to doubling of bail for man charged in Ellicott Creek boating death

Family conflict became the topic of a courtroom proceeding Thursday morning, when a judge heard that the daughter of Timothy J. Wisniewski no longer wants to be responsible for her father’s $10,000 bail.

As a result, Wisniewski will have to find someone else to post bond for him, and it will cost twice as much. Judge Sheila A. DiTullio raised his bail to $20,000 because of issues that were raised by prosecutors, and Wisniewski was taken to the Erie County Holding Center.

Wisniewski, 51, of the City of Tonawanda, faces multiple charges in connection with a June 11 boating incident on Ellicott Creek that claimed the life of a teenage girl. He has been free on bond since his arraignment Feb. 29, but his daughter notified the District Attorney’s Office this week that she wants to take back her bail support due to her father’s recent behavior.

Wisniewski arrived in Erie County Court on Thursday with another person who was willing to take over the $10,000 bail commitment, but Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel told the judge there also were other issues regarding Wisniewski’s freedom. Omel said that, according to Wisniewski’s son and daughter, he was “using pills” again and drinking.

“Additionally,” Omel said, “there is concern that the defendant has been acting with violence toward his son and threatening to commit suicide.”

She asked that he be jailed without bail.

Omel said that Timothy Wisniewski Jr. provided a statement that his father and another person had beaten him May 15 and that his father hired someone else to beat him again that same day. She also provided medical records indicating the younger Wisniewski had been hospitalized with a concussion as a result of the beating.

Wisniewski’s attorney said the accusations were fabricated and unsupported by any evidence.

Wisniewski Sr. is charged with criminally negligent homicide, two counts of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful possession of marijuana in connection with the death of Avery Gardner, 16. He reportedly had spent the night leading up to the fatal incident drinking and using drugs with a friend of his son’s, Gregory G. Green, 18, of North Tonawanda, and Gardner, who was Green’s friend and had been staying at his house, according to his family.

Wisniewski allegedly invited the two teenagers to take the predawn boat ride. Wisniewski’s son was not in the boat.

Gardner died from an injury she suffered when her head struck a footbridge at Ellicott Creek Park while the watercraft was traveling at high speed shortly after 6 a.m.

Investigators say Green was piloting the boat. He is charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and endangering the welfare of a child. Green and Wisniewski are scheduled to be tried separately in the case.

Prosecutors say that Wisniewski had a BAC of 0.13 and also was under the influence of pills and marijuana when Gardner was fatally hurt.

On Thursday, defense attorney Anthony Lana said there was no evidence that his client was continuing to use drugs, despite his children’s accusations.

“The City of Tonawanda police were called to the family home on May 15 and May 16, and they didn’t arrest him or indicate that he appeared intoxicated,” Lana said.

He noted that the police report describes a confrontation between the younger Wisniewski and another man, not his father, in which Wisniewski Jr. fell and struck his head. Lana also discounted the son’s accusation that his father had slashed a tire on his car.

As for the alleged suicide threats, Lana said, police also were called in and took no action.

“In their estimation, in their judgment, there was no issue,” Lana said. “And they were right. He’s here today, and he’s not charged with any crime.”

“If all this had been going on, wouldn’t police have made an arrest on something?” Lana asked.

He chalked the family strife up to a dispute over someone’s selling a refrigerator that may not have belonged to them.

“These are not people of great means, and apparently $100 means a lot to them,” Lana said.

DiTullio apparently felt that, whatever the cause of the bad blood in the family, the circumstances justified an increase in bail. The judge also said that, should Wisniewski eventually be freed before his trial, he would be placed under the supervision of probation to monitor him for drug use and possible suicidal impulses.

A bail hearing is scheduled for next week, along with evidentiary hearings for both Wisniewski and Green.