WILKES-BARRE – The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy of a 19-year-old woman killed last July testified Thursday she had marijuana in her blood stream.
Dr. Gary Ross's testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Daniel Loughnane, who is accused of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Rebecca McCallick was lying in the middle of Hazle Avenue near her home when she was struck on July 24, testimony also revealed.
Ross testified the marijuana could have altered her cognitive skills. Ross said investigators told him McCallick yelled out, Nobody loves me while lying in the road.
City police and county detectives allege Loughnane, 40, struck McCallick while driving a 2006 Ford F350 pickup truck. He was charged with accidents involving death on Dec. 18.
What remains unknown is Rebecca McCallick's manner of death.
Ross testified he considered suicide while noting accidental and homicide for McCallick's manner of death remains possible. McCallick's death now is classified as undetermined by Luzerne County Acting Coroner William Lisman.
The issue became a heated topic for Loughnane's attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., who challenged the coroner's office to conduct a coroner's inquest after lambasting prosecutors for presenting a weak case.
I think there should be an absolute coroner's inquest into this manner, Olszewski said. It's a disgrace that a coroner's inquest wasn't requested previously in order to help everybody, in order to help law enforcement, in order to help the victim's family as well as my client to determine what happened to this young girl. It's absolutely incredible that an inquest hasn't been requested or conducted.
A coroner's inquest allows the coroner, or on his behalf the coroner's solicitor, to present evidence to a jury to determine whether any person other than the deceased was criminally responsible. It also allows the jury to decide if the manner of death is homicide, suicide, accident or natural causes.
I would leave that up to Dr. Gary Ross and (Lisman), District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said about having a coroner's inquest. They made the determination and issued the autopsy report. Obviously, a coroner's inquest was not requested.
Ross said he was unaware a coroner's inquest was considered to determine McCallick's manner of death.
Loughnane's truck was seized without a warrant from his residence on West Liberty Street, Hanover Township, on Aug. 9, 17 days after McCallick died.
City police Detective Dave Sobocinski testified there was no hair, blood spatter, bone fragments or other DNA evidence from McCallick found on Loughnane's truck.
Sobocinski quickly answered, before Olszewski objected to the question, that it had rained during the time span when McCallick was struck until the truck was found 17 days later.
McCallick's boyfriend, John Schenck, testified McCallick was lying in the road when she was struck by what he identified to police as a black pickup truck with chrome. Loughnane's truck is blue with chrome.
Schenck said they had an argument prior to McCallick falling asleep. He said McCallick was talking in her sleep when he nudged her in the bed, causing her to wake up and walk outside.
I screamed and begged her to get off the road. ‘Rebecca, please get out of the road,' I was screaming, Schenck testified.
He said Rebecca replied only, Last chance when he yelled to her.
Schenck said he did not see and could not describe the driver of the vehicle that struck her.
Some new information was presented today, and at the trial I can assure you there will be significantly more information. This was just the tip of the iceberg, Olszewski said. Quite candidly, I'm shocked by the weakness of the commonwealth's case and the complete inability of the Luzerne County Coroner's Office to determine a manner of death for a 19-year-old girl who was found on Hazle Avenue.
Lisman, who was not at the preliminary hearing, refused to comment about Olszewski's request for a coroner's inquest.
At this point what we can say about our case, we believe Mr. Loughnane was driving the truck, he did hit Rebecca McCallick, he left her there; she died and he left the scene, Salavantis said. That is the bottom line here. We have enough evidence to prove.
Deputy District Attorney Alexis Falvello, who is prosecuting Loughnane, did not have an opportunity to present closing arguments to District Judge Rick Cronauer. Immediately after Falvello's last witness testified, Olszewski requested that the charge be forwarded to county court. Cronauer obliged.
Loughnane's next scheduled court appearance is March 8. He remains free on $50,000 bail.