Early on the morning of Dec. 22, 2013, Barry T. Moss, a handy man from Evans, was either walking and pedaling his bicycle home along Route 5 in Evans after a night of drinking with friends when he was fatally struck by an SUV near Gold Street. His body was found several hours later by a citizen who arrived at a nearby business at about 6 a.m. A father and grandfather, he was 52.
Within two days after the hit-and-run, Evans police linked Gabrielle Ballowe to the incident. Forty-eight at the time, she was one of the operators of the South Shore Beach Club on Old Lakeshore Road, a popular beachfront bar in Evans. She is no longer an owner. Police recovered her SUV from a collision shop in Dunkirk. However, she refused to answer questions.
• 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.
The first grand jury:
Erie County District Attorney’s office begins presenting evidence about the hit-and-run case to a grand jury in April 2014. The DA at the time was Frank Sedita III. In May his office informs Moss’ family that the grand jury decided not to indict Ballowe. However, the Buffalo News later learned that Sedita sent an assistant into the juror room to persuade them to take a second vote and rescind the indictment. Sedita declined to confirm or deny that account, but says that he believes grand jury made the “correct decision” not to indict.
The second grand jury:
After Sedita is named a State Supreme Court Justice, the new acting District Attorney, Michael Flaherty resurrects the Evans hit-and-run investigation. FBI agents and State Police assist Evans Police in the investigation. Sometime this spring, the grand jury convened. Earlier this week, The News learned that police officers and “civilians” had been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.
What has changed since last grand jury:
It wasn't clear what the big break in the case was, but Assistant District Attorney Thomas Finnerty indicated Tuesdsay in court that the indictment followed new evidence connected to the previous testimony of Ballowe’s friend Lynne Laettner of Angola. Finnerty said Laettner had lied about Ballowe, testifying that Ballowe had not said to her that she had struck something or someone with a vehicle. Laettner was indicted Tuesday for perjury.
The charges against Ballowe:
• Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree
• Vehicular manslaughter in the second degree
• Leaving the scene of an incident without reporting resulting in death
• Leaving the scene of an incident without reporting resulting in serious injury
She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
The charge against Laettner:
• Perjury in the first degree
She faces a maximum of seven years in prison.
Will there be a trial?
We don’t know yet, but all indications are that Ballowe’s defense attorney, Thomas Eoannou, is preparing a vigorous defense. Even before the charges were filed, he said that once the facts come out, people will realize Moss’s death was a “tragic accident” that involved no criminal conduct by Ballowe. On Tuesday, he pointed out that the victim, Moss, was highly intoxicated at the time of his death. His BAC was of 0.38 percent. Eoannou also said Moss was wearing dark clothing and may well have been on the road.