Criminal past haunts boat owner in girl’s death

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) —The only adult who was on the boat the night a teenage girl was killed is facing the most serious charges of his long criminal past.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Gardner was the youngest one on the boat last June as it sped down Ellicott Creek in the dark. Avery was killed when her head struck a low pedestrian bridge according to Acting Erie County District Attorney, Michael Flaherty.

“She’s just an innocent victim as far as I’m concerned,” Flaherty said.

Her 17-year-old boyfriend at the time was Gregory Green who is now 18-years-old, and on Monday was charged with criminally negligent homicide and vehicular manslaughter. Investigators say he was driving the boat while high on marijuana and had a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit.

But the boat owner, 51-year-old Timothy Wisniewski of Tonawanda is now also charged with criminally negligent homicide. Flaherty says Wisniewski was the only adult on that boat, which had marijuana on board and a cooler full of beer. “It’s alleged that both of them were negligent in the operation of this boat during the course of events or series of events which led to her death.”

In court Monday, prosecutor Kelly Omel outlined what she described as Wisniewski’s lengthy criminal past including DWI’s, drug arrests, petit larceny and robbery charges that made the news 11 years ago. In 2005, he prompted a police chase after robbing a Red Apple gas station at Colvin and Eggert, and attempting to rob a nearby gas station minutes before that. He spent four years in prison for it, and would be considered a second time felony offender if he’s found guilty of today’s charges.

His attorney, Anthony Lana plans to fight it.

“The co-defendant was driving, not my client, and their theory is basically he was the adult in the scenario so therefor he should be somehow criminally responsible for the girl’s tragic death, so we look forward to challenging it in court.”

Wisniewski is in custody on $10,000 bond. Green was released on $15,000 bail.

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