LOCKPORT – The man whose Nissan Murano struck and killed a teenage pedestrian in Wheatfield pleaded guilty to a felony Wednesday, as the victim’s family made it clear they were unhappy with the outcome.
Anthony J. DiFilippo, 41, of Michael Drive, Wheatfield, admitted to a reduced count of attempted leaving the scene of a fatality without reporting. But acting Niagara County District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner recommended a limit on sentencing of six months in jail to lead off a five-year probation term. State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. accepted the recommendation and will impose the term Aug. 2.
Kloch told DiFilippo that if he violates the terms of probation, he could be resentenced to as long as four years in prison.
“We definitely wanted longer jail. It could be his whole life, and it wouldn’t be enough,” said Lisa Fischer, the mother of the victim, 16-year-old Ryan Fischer.
Brenner said after court the plea was offered because of “issues with the proof,” but he declined to explain.
DiFilippo didn’t stop after his auto struck and killed Ryan as he was walking along Krueger Road about 7 p.m. Nov. 20, 2014. But defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said DiFilippo returned to the scene moments later.
He said DeFilippo “didn’t realize he hit someone. He went back around, realized it and panicked.”
Eoannou said DiFilippo “saw another vehicle seeming to assist someone,” and left again.
Police had said that DiFilippo was texting while driving at or near the time of the collision, but Eoannou said, “We’re contesting that.”
As for returning to the scene, Fischer’s girlfriend, Leeza Kalish, 19, said, “That’s not valid.” She told reporters, “While I was on scene, no other vehicle came by except for the police car.”
She said Fischer was struck from behind while walking “half in the pavement and half in the grass.” He never regained consciousness and died the next day.
He was in the traffic lane because at the time, there was no paved shoulder on Krueger Road separating the pavement from a deep drainage ditch. Since the death, the Town of Wheatfield has filled in the ditch and is seeking grant funding to build a sidewalk.
“I want to make it in Ryan’s memory. He’d be helping to keep that road safe,” said Kelly Dueger, Fischer’s stepmother.
DiFilippo was indicted for leaving the scene as well as tampering with physical evidence for having his car repaired after the accident, plus two traffic violations: texting while driving and failure to exercise due care for a pedestrian. He is free on $10,000 bail.