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Son, 17, testifies in mom's trial for murder; Believes dad's death was an accident

The oldest son of Robin Kalinowski 11 years old when awakened by his mother's screams six years ago and frantically told to call 911 to get help for his fatally wounded father -- took the stand at her murder trial Monday and said he believed her account of what happened.

Did he believe she shot him accidentally?, he was asked.

"Yes," Kevin Kalinowski Jr. replied.

Robin Kalinowski, 46, is on trial for the third time for the death of her husband, Kevin, 41. She said she accidentally shot him in the head in their Rosedale Street home at about 1 a.m. Nov. 10, 2005, when a rifle went off in the dark as she picked it up from their bed.

"Oh, God, no," she said, crying, when her lawyer asked if she intended to kill her husband.

She said she loved him, and so did her two sons.

"My boys are everything," she added. "I couldn't break their hearts."

Her first trial ended in a mistrial in 2008 when jurors deadlocked. Last year, an appeals court overturned a second jury's 2009 guilty verdict that the Riverside woman intentionally shot her husband to death as he slept.

Kevin Jr. did not testify in either of the first two trials.

But at his mother's request, he testified Monday during her third trial, now entering its third week.

Now 17, Kevin Jr. said he could not recall crying out that his father "wouldn't bring a loaded gun into bed," when he and his younger brother were told their father had been taken off life support hours after he was shot.

Kenneth Kalinowski, an uncle to Kevin Jr., testified last week that he recalled Kevin Jr. saying that when he told the boys their father died.

Prosecutors have highlighted that statement, among others, because it showed the elder Kevin Kalinowski was too safety-conscious to leave a loaded rifle in the bed.

Prosecutors Thomas M. Finnerty and Michael P. Felicetta portray Robin Kalinowski as an adulterous wife who intentionally murdered her husband, and they are seeking a second-degree murder conviction.

Defense lawyers John K. Jordan and Joseph Agro call his death a terrible accident.

When prosecutors rested their case Monday, Jordan asked State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang to dismiss the case because "there's not one bit of evidence" showing Robin Kalinowski intended to kill her husband.

Wolfgang denied his request.

Charles Aronica, a Buffalo homicide detective, told jurors he read her police statements and watched her re-enact what happened days after the shooting. Aronica testified that he found her statement that her husband was cleaning or fixing his rifle in the bedroom to be "ridiculous."

Kenneth Kalinowski recalled his conversation with his sister-in-law months after the shooting.

"I said, 'Robin, you will never make me believe my brother brought a loaded gun to bed with him,' " he said.

"She said, 'I know. I agree. I don't know how the gun got there,' " he said.

Dr. James J. Woytash of Erie County Medical Center's pathology department said he reviewed Kalinowski's autopsy and the videotaped re-enactment. He said he found the path of the bullet into the back of his head did not mesh with her account.

"My opinion is that it's not consistent with what's claimed," Woytash said.

But Kevin Jr. supported his mother, and he described a happy family life before the shooting.

"It was good," he said of his parents' marriage. "I never saw them argue. We did everything together."

His parents took him to baseball and hockey practices and games. On many weekends, the whole family went to the family's cabin, where his father taught him how to shoot guns.

Kevin Jr. said his father was safe with the revolvers, shotguns and rifles he owned, but that he saw him bring guns into the dining room, living room and bedroom to clean or fix.

The rifle with which Robin Kalinowski shot her husband belonged to Kevin Jr. Two weekends before the shooting, the rifle did not fire properly, Kevin Jr. testified.

"It would jam after the shot," he said.

He recalled his father telling him to put down the rifle and that he would fix it later.

His father kept an old revolver in the bedroom closet, and he also kept bullets on the dresser, Kevin Jr. said.

The night of the shooting, he did not hear his parents argue, he said.

Robin Kalinowski has been in custody since November 2007 but has written and telephoned her children often.

"You love your mom?" asked Felicetta, a prosecutor.

"Yes, I do," Kevin Jr. replied.

Did he tell her in a telephone conversation, "I love you, mom. I'll do anything for you,"?

"That did not mean lie in court," Kevin Jr. said.

Kevin Jr. described his father as a wonderful parent, and said he loved both his parents equally.

When Robin Kalinowski took the stand after her son, Jordan asked her if she asked her son to lie on her behalf.

"No, those were Kevin's words," she said.

She said she loved her husband, and she called her extra-marital affair months before the shooting "a dumb mistake."

"I loved Kevin the whole time," she said. "I was stupid. I made a dumb mistake."

She had the affair with a co-worker from January to April in 2005 and said that neither one planned to leave their spouse.

Her husband did not learn of the affair, she said.

In 2009, Robin Kalinowski pleaded guilty to a second-degree conspiracy charge and admitted that in April 2008, during talks at the Erie County Holding Center, she agreed to pay an undercover state trooper posing as a hitman to kill her former lover.

email: plakamp@buffnews.com