Peter Wlasiuk

NORWICH _ In Chenango County Court on Thursday, Jamie Bell told jurors how he pulled Patricia Wlasiuk's body from Guilford Lake during the early morning of April 3, 2002.

His testimony came before the eight-woman, four-man jury at Peter Wlasiuk's retrial on a charge of second-degree murder. Other witnesses described finding and aiding Peter Wlasiuk at the scene, as well as his demeanor later at a hospital.

Bell, a state police diver and investigator, said that at 12:40 a.m. that night, he learned a pickup truck had veered off county Route 35 and plunged into the lake.

Minutes before that, lakeside resident Thomas Becker had dialed 911, and Chenango County Deputy Dwight Meade, who happened to be on county Route 35, was on his way. A dispatcher called for a diver, so Bell grabbed his equipment and troopers took off.

``I began to change into my gear on the way, and we arrived at 12:52 a.m.,'' Bell said.

Down a steep embankment about 60 feet out in the water was a 1999 six-wheel GMC pickup belonging to Peter and Patricia Wlasiuk of 633 New Virginia Road, Oxford.

Its running lights were still glowing, red taillights toward the shore.

``I finished putting my gear on, and at 12:56 I went in,'' Bell said.

He swam out, dove down in cold water perhaps 12 feet deep, and ``first I found a sweatshirt,'' Bell said.

``I felt weight, then I saw a leg and foot and I knew it was a person,'' he added.

Above him in a rowboat were Becker and Chad Brown, an emergency medical technician from Oxford.

Bell grabbed Patricia Wlasiuk's lifeless form around the torso, swam to the surface and hollered ``I've got her,'' he said Thursday in response to questions from Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride.

Becker and Brown maneuvered the boat close to him and lifted the 35-year-old registered nurse's body into the boat.

More police and emergency personnel were arriving now, and on shore they would try in vain to revive the woman.

Peter Wlasiuk, an over-the-road truck driver, was on land. He'd awakened Becker, asking him to call for help, then returned to the break in the guardrail through which his truck had gone.

Meade, the first police officer on the scene, testified Thursday, ``When I got there, I saw him by the side of the road, shivering and wet.''

He put Wlasiuk into the backseat of the patrol car, turned the heat on high and went down to the shore to see if he could help.

Soon, a Guilford ambulance arrived. Meade said he took Peter Wlasiuk to it, then began to secure evidence at what seemed like the scene of a serious accident.

On the shoulder across the road from the lake, he noticed dual tire tracks, which curved from the dirt to the road, and on the other side continued through grass on to the lake.

Meade said he cordoned this area off with cones to preserve the evidence.

In response to questions from Wlasiuk's attorney, Randel Scharf of Coopertown, Meade said that many vehicles arrived that night, but none drove over this spot.

``There were lots of vehicles with dual wheels on them, weren't there?'' Scharf said. ``How could you watch every one?''

Meade said he saw no one drive over the tracks he'd found.

Also testifying was Chenango County Sgt. Clarence Ellingson, who said he stayed with Peter Wlasiuk in the ambulance, rode with him to The Hospital in Sidney and later that morning took a statement from him.

``Mr. Wlasiuk said Patty was driving,'' Ellingson said. ``He said Patty rolled down her window to flick a cigarette out'' and when she glanced back, saw a deer in the road. She swerved between guardrails, struck a small post and the truck went into the lake, the sergeant said he was told.

Ellingson testified Wlasiuk told him that as the truck filled with water, he opened the passenger door and grabbed his wife's hand, but he was unable to hang on as he made his way to shore.

In court Thursday, Ellingson said he noticed that night in 2002 that Wlasiuk's ``hair was dry, his lips were rosy red and his speech was perfect,'' not what one would expect from someone who'd been struggling in icy water.

In response to questions from Scharf, Ellingson acknowledged that he had not written these observations in his notes in 2002.

Carol Olmstead, formerly a supervising nurse at The Hospital, where both Wlasiuks were taken April 3, 2002, testified Peter's remorse that day seemed contrived.

``I told him Patty had passed away and it was kind of strange. He held his hands up and started shaking, but didn't cry,'' she said.

In response to a question from Scharf, she said hadn't disclosed this behavior to police initially, but only after Wlasiuk was indicted for murder.

In 2002, Wlasiuk was found guilty of second-degree murder, but the conviction was set aside in 2006, leading to the new trial before Broome County Judge Martin Smith.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 8:30 this morning.

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