WILKES-BARRE — The girlfriend of a man found dead in his Hazle Township home in September 2011 invoked her Fifth Amendment right Monday at a rare coroner’s inquest trial being held in Luzerne County.
Matthew Ryan Gailie, 34, was found dead in his Muskegan Circle home in Eagle Rock from a single gunshot wound to the face on Sept. 3, 2011. Gailie was a corrections officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
A jury of six men and women and two alternates was selected Monday morning to determine the manner of death in which Gailie died: suicide, homicide, accident or undetermined.
The Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office coordinated the trial, which is being presided over by acting county Coroner Bill Lisman. After hearing testimony, the jury will deliberate to determine Gailie’s manner of death.
The inquest is the first to happen in the last 17 years, and is a proceeding that allows Lisman, the jurors and any attorney present to ask a witness questions — unlike a regular criminal or civil trial.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Zola called witnesses to testify, including Gailie’s live-in girlfriend, Jessica Alinski. Her attorney, Gary Marchalk, of Tamaqua, said Alinski, 29, was invoking her Fifth Amendment right. The constitutional right protects citizens against possible self-incrimination.
Testimony in the inquest will continue this morning in Courtroom B.
But, through the testimony of state police, a recorded interview with police and a 911 call, jurors would hear from Alinski throughout the day.
Neighbors who live near Gailie’s home testified to hearing fireworks and a gunshot around 11:30 p.m.
In a lengthy 911 call, Alinski is heard screaming and sobbing that she heard a pop while upstairs in the couple’s home and came down to find Gailie bloody and laying on the floor.
Alinski told the 911 dispatcher the two had an argument, and Gailie shot himself in the head. Alinski also pleaded with the 911 dispatcher to send help, told the dispatcher there are large amounts of blood and that Gailie is not breathing.
State Trooper John Chulock said he was the first to arrive at Gailie’s home, and he saw Alinski covered “from head to toe” in blood and Gailie lying on the floor with a gun in his left hand, even though, police testified, Gailie was right-handed.
Chulock said there were a number of unusual circumstances surrounding Gailie’s body: his finger was on the trigger, there was blood on the gun, blood on a nearby couch and blood spatter under a table.
“There was definitely something wrong,” Chulock said. “The scene had been manipulated.”
Chulock testified Alinski had told a number of stories to police over a two-hour period. Trooper John Corrigan also testified Alinski had inconsistencies in her stories and that evidence was moved inside the home.
A shell casing from a 9mm handgun was rolled up in a blanket and placed on the couch, Corrigan said, and blood and foot prints were found in a nearby bathroom.
Corrigan also testified he saw a broken photo frame with a photo of the couple on top of the garbage in the kitchen.
“(It’s) indicative that their relations was in the trash,” Corrigan said. Alinski had told police the two had a rocky relationship that included physical and verbal fights, and that Gailie has pointed a gun at himself and Alinski a number of times.
“It’s just something I got used to,” Alinski told police in a recorded interview.