WILKES-BARRE – A Dallas man charged in a March 2011 towing incident that killed 55-year-old Denise Polinchak is scheduled to stand trial this morning.
Robert Wickham, 56, will face a jury on charges of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence, two counts of DUI and one count each of reckless driving and careless driving.
County Judge Joseph Sklarosky is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last four days.
Polinchak, of Wilkes-Barre, was having her vehicle towed by Wickham because of brake problems outside the Social Security Administration building on East Mountain Road on March 7.
Wickham was in the driver's seat of Polinchak's car with the door open when the vehicle accelerated. The open door struck Polinchak, according to prosecutors, knocking her to the pavement.
Polinchak died at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center later that day. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Prosecutors allege Wickham drank three 24-ounce cans of beer before being dispatched by his employer, Herbert's Towing, through AAA Mid-Atlantic, to Polinchak's vehicle.
Wickham's attorney, Tom Marsilio, has previously acknowledged Wickham had a blood-alcohol level of .114 percent, but blamed a defective vehicle for Polinchak's fatal injuries. An adult driver in Pennsylvania is considered intoxicated with a BAC of .08 percent.
Marsilio represents Wickham along with attorney Larry Kansky.
Assistant District Attorneys Rebecca Reimiller and Shannon Crake, who are prosecuting, said at the time of Wickham's preliminary hearing in January that Wickham's drinking and driving led to Polinchak's death.
Plains Township police testified at the preliminary hearing that Wickham claimed he told Polinchak to stand away from the vehicle that suddenly accelerated, striking her with an open door.
Police said an inspection of the vehicle found a damaged brake line and no problems with the accelerator.
Polinchak's husband, Michael, filed a lawsuit in May 2011 against Wickham, AAA Mid-Atlantic and John Herbert and his towing company, requesting more than $50,000 in damages as a result of his wife's death.
That lawsuit is still pending in Luzerne County Court.