Last updated: June 17. 2014 3:56PM - 4665 Views
By - rdupuis@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6113

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WILKES-BARRE — Two of the three women believed to have run over Sharon Shaughnessy in Kingston in 2008 have testified today at the trial of hit-and-run trial of Megan Panowicz.

Panowicz, 29, is charged with a felony count of leaving the scene of an accident that caused the death of 32-year-old Sharon Shaughnessy on the night of Aug. 27, 2008, as Shaughnessy crossed Wyoming Avenue in Kingston. She is expected to testify tomorrow.

The second and third women whom police said struck Shaughnessy are Swoyersville resident Rosemary Chismar and Kingston resident Linda Giordano, both of whom appeared at the bench trial before specially presiding Centre County Senior Judge Charles Brown.

Chismar, 66, testified about believing she had hit a blanket, until pulling over and seeing a head sticking out of the cloth. Before she could reach the body, she saw another vehicle run over the body, describing how blood and tissue came up from the tires.

The third driver, Giordano, 68, testified that she looked in the rear-view mirror, thought she had run over a roll of carpet and kept going.

Chismar, who stayed at the scene and spoke to police, never was charged.

Giordano reached a deal with prosecutors last year averting a felony charge and pleading guilty to summary traffic offenses.

Testimony has wrapped up for today and will resume tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Opening statements took place this morning following Panowicz’s decision on Monday to seek a bench trial instead of a jury trial.

The case is being heard before specially presiding Centre County Senior Judge Charles Brown.

“This is that rarest of cases in which our burden is reasonable doubt, but there is no doubt,” said Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden, in an opening statement which lasted about five minutes.

“It is breathtakingly simple,” said Madden, who said that Panowicz went home that night after leaving the scene, at which two other vehicles struck Shaughnessy after Panowicz — by her own admission to police — struck Shaughnessy first.

“That the defendant is required to remain in every event at the scene … she did not do that and she cannot dispute that,” Madden said.

Panowicz’s lead defense attorney, her father, Robert Panowicz, opened the defense’s case with a 14-minute statement, telling the court that his daughter and client stopped and intended to call 911 after striking Shaughnessy.

But she did not call 911, Robert Panowicz said, instead leaving in a state of shock after seeing Shaughnessy’s body torn apart as it was struck by two other cars.

“She sees that horrific, horrible event … this drama taking place in front of her, and she’s horrified when she sees that,” Robert Panowicz said of his daughter.

“She stopped to do what she was supposed to do. But for those two other accidents, she would not have left that scene,” he said.

“Now she panics, and gets in her car and leaves, and drives home,” he added. “She takes pills to try to get to sleep. She will testify that when she wakes up, she thought it was some kind of nightmare.”

Robert Panowicz also suggested that given the extent of Shaughnessy’s injuries, “I submit to the court that no aid was possible to be given.”

The attorney went on to tell the court that Megan Panowicz broke down in hysteria the next morning at the family law office, and did cooperate fully with police shortly afterward when her parents took her to the police station, 11 and a half hours after the incident.

Robert Panowicz also pointed out that Shaughnessy was crossing outside of the crosswalk and against the signals, as he said police reconstruction concluded.

Police determined that Megan Panowicz was driving about 29 mph and attempted to brake and steer away from Shaughnessy, but “unfortunately, neither was enough.” Robert Panowicz said.

The trial, at which Megan Panowicz is expected to testify, is anticipated to run through Wednesday, at least, attorneys said.

The charge against her carries a mandatory one-year minimum sentence.

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