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Woman testifies she saw Rice alive and seconds later heard ‘loud’ impact

Jamie LaPierre was returning with her husband to their Amherst home late on the night of July 8, 2011, from Shakespeare in Delaware Park.

Alexandria “Alix” Rice was riding her longboard on Heim Road on her way home from work.

Dr. James G. Corasanti was driving drunk on his way home from Transit Valley Country Club when he fatally struck Rice and continued on his way home.

LaPierre testified Wednesday about what she saw and heard that night.

At first, LaPierre thought the figure she saw on the side of Heim Road about a tenth of a mile from the car her husband was driving was a deer.

But when she saw the figure quickly cross Heim at an angle, she realized it was a person.

When the person got to the other side, she saw it was a young woman who was riding a longboard and pushing off with one of her legs to propel the board.

She was wearing a brightly colored top and black shorts that showed her white skin, LaPierre said, adding that she had no trouble seeing her.

As their car passed Rice, she said Rice was on the shoulder of the road and was in control of her longboard. She said there was never any danger that they would hit her as she crossed the road.

LaPierre said she then saw Corasanti’s car on the other side of the road drive by them quickly a little bit faster than the 35 mph speed limit.

Seconds later, she heard what she called “a very loud, solid impact.”

“Had you ever heard anything like it before?” asked attorney Terrence M. Connors, who is representing Rice’s parents at the State Supreme Court trial of their wrongful-death lawsuit against the Getzville physician.

“No,” LsPierre said.

At that point, her husband, Mark Rowland, told her, “She’s been hit.” He made a U-turn and parked their car on the shoulder where they saw a broken longboard partially in the traffic lane and a shoe on the shoulder.

They started looking for Rice. Her husband found the 18-year-old woman on a nearby front lawn, and LaPierre called 911. “She was lying on her side,” she said. Her eyes were not moving, and she did not appear to be conscious.

First responders soon arrived, and LaPierre and her husband gave police a statement later that night at their home.

Under cross-examination by Richard T. Sullivan, Corasanti’s attorney, LaPierre said the 5-foot, 5-inch Rice was bent over at the waist and slightly bent at the knees when she crossed the road on her longboard near Schimwood Court.

But she said Rice was upright as she propelled her board along the shoulder.

She said Corasanti’s car drove by them in the opposite direction as they slowed to turn left into Schimwood to get to their home. Seconds later, they heard the impact.

She acknowledged that she didn’t see the impact and did not know what position Rice was in when she was hit.

Rice’s parents, Richard J. Rice and Tammy A. Schueler, are seeking monetary damages for the terror they say she suffered shortly before the collision, her pain and suffering after she was hit and their economic loss as a result of her premature death. They also seek punitive damages.

Corasanti’s lawyers contend that the victim died immediately and that her actions contributed to her death.

Corasanti was acquitted in 2012 by an Erie County Court jury of manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and evidence tampering.

He was convicted of misdemeanor drunken driving and served eight months in jail.

Earlier Wednesday, Amherst Police Detective Peter Crofut testified that Corasanti’s left palm print was found on the crumpled hood of his car after the fatal hit-and-run crash.

The palm print was found just above the damaged headlight and bumper on the car’s passenger side, along with Rice’s skin and other biological material, Crofut said.

Partial fingerprints were found around the headlight and bumper, along with evidence that someone had wiped that area, possibly with a rag, the detective testified.

But he was unable to identify the source of the partial prints.

Under cross-examination, the detective acknowledged that after the collision, Amherst police monitored the doctor’s garbage for possible evidence in the case.

He said they found a rag and tested it for DNA because they believed it might have been used to wipe Rice’s biological material from the front of the car after he got home.

“But the fact of the matter is that after testing, you found it contained no biological material from Alix Rice?” Sullivan asked.

“That’s correct,” the detective said.

He also acknowledged that Corasanti’s DNA was not found on the exterior of his vehicle.

Under questioning by Lawlor F. Quinlan III, who also represents Rice’s parents, Crofut testified that, in his opinion, Corasanti made the wiping marks on the front of the car.

The detective said he believed that Corasanti placed his left hand on the front of the hood to support himself as he bent over to wipe the bumper.