LOCKPORT – A Wheatfield man arraigned Monday in State Supreme Court faces two felony charges over a hit-run incident that killed a 16-year-old North Tonawanda boy walking on Krueger Road in Wheatfield last fall.
Anthony J. DiFilippo, who lives in the neighborhood where Ryan Fischer was fatally struck Nov. 20, pleaded not guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident without reporting it and tampering with physical evidence.
He also pleaded not guilty to two traffic violations: texting while driving and failure to exercise due care for a pedestrian.
DiFilippo, 40, of Michael Drive, could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. scheduled a pretrial hearing for Nov. 13 and a jury trial for Feb. 8.
Ryan was walking with his girlfriend when he was struck from behind shortly after 7 p.m. on Krueger. He never regained consciousness and died the next day.
It appears that Ryan had been walking in the traffic lane, because that section of Krueger has no shoulder.
“You take one step off and you’re in the bottom of the ditch,” Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said Monday.
Ryan, who wore dark clothing, was walking to the left of his girlfriend, who was unhurt, according to a police report.
Police found damaged parts of the auto at the scene. By the time the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office seized the vehicle Dec. 17, it had been repaired, which led to the evidence tampering charge.
“He has no record whatsoever,” Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner said of DiFilippo.
Still, the prosecutor asked the judge to set bail at $10,000.
“The offense itself involves flight,” Brenner said. “He has family in Canada and has gone back and forth several times.”
Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said DiFilippo visits a terminally ill uncle in Canada. He did not flee in the months before he was formally charged, according to Eoannou, who said, “He’s known about this case since Dec. 17.”
Eoannou asked Kloch to release DiFilippo on his own recognizance. Kloch normally does that when a defendant who has been free shows up on his own. But this time, the judge refused, calling this case “the one-time-in-a-hundred exception.”
Eoannou asked that DiFilippo be given until 5 p.m. Tuesday to post bail, saying, “We’ve already been in contact with a bondsman in Erie County.”
But Kloch said, “He’s going to be taken away today.”
Neither manslaughter nor criminally negligent homicide was charged because those counts generally require proof of alcohol or drug involvement.
“The search warrant was executed on the vehicle a month later,” Sheriff James R. Voutour said. “I understand it’s been a long time and people are frustrated. We had to get it right.”
Building the case involved “old-fashioned police work … crawling around on our hands and knees looking for evidence,” Voutour said.
Randall Fischer, of Niagara Falls, Ryan’s grandfather, told reporters, “The law enforcement agency’s good. They’re tip-top. It just takes time.”
He said his grandson “was a good boy, a very good boy. Smart. He wanted to be an electrician.”
At the urging of Kelly Dueger, Ryan’s stepmother, the town has agreed to fill in the drainage ditch where Ryan was walking while it seeks funding to install a sidewalk, but work has not yet begun, Cliffe said.