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Former bar owner faces multiple felonies in 2013 fatal hit-and-run

Gabriele Ballowe, a former bar owner who for nearly 30 months has been the prime suspect in the hit-and-run death of Evans handyman Barry T. Moss, is going to be charged Tuesday with multiple felonies, including vehicular manslaughter, three sources familiar with the case told The Buffalo News.

Ballowe is now in the custody of Evans Police and she is scheduled to appear before Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk this afternoon.

According to police, Ballowe was the driver who struck and fatally injured Moss, 52, early on the morning of Dec. 22, 2013, as he walked or pedaled his bicycle along Route 5 in Evans after a night of drinking with friends.

The case has taken many twists and turns since the morning when Moss’ body was found. Evans Police impounded Ballowe’s sport utility vehicle from a collision shop on the day after the incident and quickly identified Ballowe as their prime suspect. Ballowe just as quickly hired a prominent defense attorney – Thomas J. Eoannou – to represent her.

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Related: A mystery in Evans: Who killed Barry Moss?

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Since then, Ballowe has outraged many Evans residents, including Moss’ family and friends, by refusing to answer any police questions about the incident, even after she settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s survivors.

And in a highly unusual action in May 2014, then-District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III directed an assistant to convince members of a grand jury to take a second vote after they had voted to indict Ballowe on felony charges. On the second vote, grand jurors decided not to indict Ballowe.

Sedita refused to comment on the second grand jury vote, but he told The News in 2014 that he felt there was insufficient evidence to prove that Ballowe knew that she hit a human being at the accident scene.

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Related: Bar owner named in civil lawsuit over hit-run death of Evans man

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After a state Department of Motor Vehicles hearing in January 2015, Administrative Law Judge Glenn E. Murray revoked Ballowe’s license to drive. Murray wrote that he found “abundant evidence” that Ballowe had been drinking alcohol before getting into her vehicle and fatally striking Moss.  Murray noted that Ballowe had a driving-while-impaired by alcohol conviction in 2005.

After the hearing, Moss’ sister, Maria Wrafter said Ballowe “could be a danger to you, me, or any of our children.” Supporters of the Moss family have held several public rallies, and hundreds of “Pray For Justice For Barry Moss” lawn signs and bumper stickers have cropped up all over the lakeside community of Evans.

Wrafter and Moss’ mother, Charlotte Moss said repeatedly that the lack of progress in the case has been painful and frustrating for their family, especially with the knowledge that Ballowe’s vehicle had been linked to the death by physical evidence.

“I’ve been told to be patient, but it’s very difficult to do that, to know that the person who owns this vehicle is out and about,”

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Related: Settlement reached by Ballowe in fatal hit-and-run

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Moss told The News in 2014. “As a parent, as a human being, I would ask the person who drove that SUV, ‘How could you do this? How could you not stop to help?’ That is very hard for me to comprehend.”

Among the evidence that has been cited in the past by police:

• Witnesses saw Ballowe eating and drinking alcohol with four friends in a Hamburg restaurant for a couple of hours that night before she left to drive home in her SUV, a gray 2013 Ford Explorer.

• When Ballowe left the restaurant, she appeared to stumble, prompting a waitress to offer to drive her home. Ballowe refused the offer, saying she would drive herself home. She was seen getting into the driver’s seat of the SUV. No one got into the vehicle with her.

• Less than a half-hour later, at around 12:15 a.m., Moss was hit along Route 5 near Gold Street. The timeline between when Ballowe left the restaurant and Ballowe’s SUV hit Moss “fits perfectly,” a police official said. The location where Moss was hit by the SUV is on the route between the bar where Ballowe had dinner and her home.

• Minutes after Moss was struck, another driver saw Ballowe’s SUV run through a stop sign as it turned onto Old Lake Shore Road, not far from where Moss was hit. The other driver’s car was cut off and nearly run off the road by Ballowe’s SUV. The other driver noticed that Ballowe’s SUV had damage to the front end. The other driver then saw Ballowe’s SUV pull into the parking lot outside the South Shore Beach Club. At the time, Ballowe was co-owner of the beach club and lived in the same building. The other driver never saw who was driving Ballowe’s SUV.

• Police questioned Ballowe’s family and learned that all other members of her family were elsewhere that night and could not have been driving the SUV when it hit Moss.

• Ballowe has never reported her SUV as stolen or claimed that someone else was driving it that night.

• Evidence technicians from the Erie County Central Police Services found Moss’ DNA on Ballowe’s SUV, and several parts that broke off from her vehicle were found at the site of the fatal hit-and-run.

• A day after Moss was killed, Ballowe arranged to have her damaged SUV repaired at a collision shop in Dunkirk, 20 miles away, rather than taking it to one of many collision shops located much closer to her home. Ballowe was visibly upset as she told the collision shop manager that she had “hit something” with her vehicle, police said.

“I noticed that Gabriele was upset. She told me she had hit something with her car,” the collision shop’s office manager told police a few days after Moss’ death. Ballowe never gave the manager further details about what she had hit, according to a police report. Ballowe’s SUV was confiscated by police soon after it arrived at the shop.

Based on autopsy results, authorities also confirmed that Moss was extremely intoxicated when the SUV hit him. According to Evans Police, Moss’s intoxication has no bearing on whether he was a victim of a hit-and-run driver.

The alcohol content of Moss’s blood was tested after the fatality.

Over the course of the investigation, Eoannou has never confirmed that Ballowe was the driver. But the defense attorney told The News on several occasions that, once the facts come out, people will realize Moss’s death was a “tragic accident” that involved no criminal conduct by Ballowe.

email: dherbeck@buffnews.com