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Corasanti’s wife tells of his return home that night

Laureen M. Corasanti testified Thursday at her husband’s civil trial about what happened when Dr. James G. Corasanti returned home on the night of July 8, 2011, after he fatally struck Alexandria “Alix” Rice on her longboard on Heim Road in Amherst.

The wife, who had arrived home from a couples golf outing at Transit Valley Country Club before her husband, said he looked upset when she saw him in an upstairs hallway after he drove back to their Getzville home.

“What’s the matter?” she asked him.

He told her he had noticed some damage on his car when he walked around it after pulling into the garage. She suggested they look at the car, and she got a flashlight to take a better look at the vehicle in the dimly lit garage.

She said she sat on a step leading from the garage into the house and shined the flashlight on the bumper.

“Were you stunned by what you saw?” asked Lawlor F. Quinlan III, one of the attorneys for Rice’s parents.

“I was visibly shaken,” she said.

Her husband, who was standing behind her, put his hand on her shoulder, she recalled.

“Did you see flesh on the hood?” Quinlan asked.

“I didn’t know what it was,” she said.

The attorney asked if her husband then reached over her and removed a piece of flesh from the car and if the piece fell on the step where she was sitting.

“I didn’t know what it was,” she responded.

“Did your husband give an explanation for the damage?” Quinlan asked.

“Nothing was said,” she responded.

They went back into the house, and she told her husband she was going to retrace his route back to the country club to see what had happened.

She acknowledged that, in her pretrial deposition in the case, she said she had told him, “Well, maybe you hit an animal or deer. I’ll go back and see.”

She said her husband was sitting at the kitchen table when she left.

“He didn’t say he had hit something on Heim?” Quinlan asked.

“No,” she said.

As she drove toward Heim, she said she saw an ambulance drive by. She followed it onto Heim but came upon a police officer in a patrol car who told her she couldn’t continue on Heim.

“At that point, I knew something bad had happened,” she said.

She turned her vehicle around and called Thomas H. Burton, a friend who is an attorney. At about the same time, her husband also was calling Burton.

“Were you screaming on the phone?” Quinlan asked.

“I was very upset,” she said, adding that she was probably talking loudly at the time.

Following Burton’s advice, she returned home.

She testified that her husband became upset when she told him that Burton said another attorney could be coming to their home to turn James Corasanti over to police.

She acknowledged that in her deposition, she had said her husband didn’t want their young son to see his father surrendering to police.

“He walked out the front door,” she said. “I tried to stop him, but he left.”

Police took him into custody later that night at a nearby location.

After her husband left, Laureen Corasanti said, she was sitting on the front porch with two neighbors when a police car pulled up, and she then called Burton. The officer said he was looking for a silver gray car involved in an accident.

“Did anyone tell the officer the car you’re looking for belongs to Dr. James Corasanti and is here in the garage?” Quinlan asked.

“No,” she said, adding that the car the officer described did not match her husband’s black BMW.

Laureen Corasanti also testified that she and her husband had been drinking at the golf outing but that she didn’t believe he was drunk, so she did not offer to drive him home in her Range Rover.

She acknowledged that she had seen him have a number of drinks on previous occasions but that she didn’t know if she had ever seen him drunk.

Quinlan asked her if she had called police in 2004 and told them that her husband was intoxicated and had tried to take their son from her.

She said that she had called police but that the report about what had happened at their home that night was not true.

Richard T. Sullivan, attorney for James Corasanti, did not question the wife.

Rice’s parents, Richard J. Rice and Tammy A. Schueler, are seeking monetary damages for the terror they say their 18-year-old daughter suffered shortly before the hit-and-run, her pain and suffering after she was hit, and their economic loss as a result of her premature death. They also seek punitive damages.

Defense lawyers contend that the victim died immediately and that her actions contributed to her death.

James Corasanti, 59, 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.

One other witness testified Thursday. Mark Rowland said James Corasanti was driving on the shoulder of Heim and looking down to his left seconds before he hit Rice.

Rowland said Corasanti’s car was approaching him in the opposite direction as Rowland waited for him to pass by so Rowland could make a left turn into Schimwood Court to get to his home.

Rowland said he was concerned that Corasanti would hit Rice, who had just crossed on her longboard in front of Rowland’s car to the other side of Heim, where Corasanti was driving.

“I hope he sees her,” Rowland told his wife.

As the doctor’s car passed him, Rowland said, he was concerned because Corasanti was driving fast on the shoulder and looking down.

Two to three seconds later, he said, he heard the noise from the impact and assumed that Corasanti had hit the longboarder.

Rowland turned his car around and parked on the shoulder where he saw a broken longboard and a shoe. He and his wife then started looking for Rice.

He found her on a front lawn. Her pupils were fixed and widely dilated, he said, and she had no pulse. But he said he heard gurgling coming from her body as she gasped for air. While he attended to Rice, his wife called 911.

On cross-examination, Rowland acknowledged that he had testified at Corasanti’s criminal trial that he was 2 to 3 feet from Corasanti when the doctor’s car passed him.

Rowland said Thursday that he was farther from Corasanti than that.

He also acknowledged that he had not told Amherst police, a grand jury or the jury at the criminal trial that Corasanti was looking down. He said no one had asked him that question until the civil trial.

Although Rice was about 5 feet from Rowland when she crossed in front of him, he said there was no danger of him hitting her because he had stopped to make his turn. He also said he had no trouble seeing her because she was wearing a brightly colored top.

Rowland testified that she was in a crouching position when she crossed the road. He also acknowledged on cross-examination that he had not mentioned at the criminal trial that he heard gurgling coming from Rice, because no one had asked him that question.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com