On January 9, 2009, 20 year old Amanda Wienckowski’s body was discovered naked, frozen, and upside down stuffed in a garbage tote across the street from the residence of Antoine J. Garner, where she had gone to provide sexual services. Though not charged in her death, the 300-or-more pound Garner has been identified as the last person to see her alive and as a person of interest in her death. Her family reported her missing five weeks prior to the discovery of her body.
Erie County Medical Examiner’s determination that Wienckowski died of a drug overdose. But retired Buffalo Homicide Detective Mark J. Lauber said, ” They (police)believed the most likely scenario was that a large person accidentally choked the petite, 20-year-old Kenmore woman during a paid encounter. ” The police have realized from the get go that, “ the cause of death was not from a lethal amount of opiates for someone who used heroin every day.”
Since, then, the Wienckowski’s family sought the assistance of attorney Steven M. Cohen of the Amherst law firm Hogan Willig and had a second autopsy done by a West Coast pathologist who concluded that Wienckowski’s cause of death was strangulation. A finding that Albany-area pathologist Michael Sikirica determined that the amount of opiates in Wienckowski’s system was “a relatively innocuous level.”
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“The Buffalo police have always maintained this was a homicide,” Cohen said. “Whether it’s murder or manslaughter is a question for a jury to decide, but the medical examiner’s findings prevent District Attorney Frank Sedita from prosecuting the case because the listed cause of death creates reasonable doubt.”
Lauber, in challenging the medical examiner’s determination, said he and other detectives assigned to the case were told by a county toxicologist that the accidental overdose was selected as the cause of Wienckowski’s death because they could not find any other explanation. The “logical” way to handle the cause of death, Lauber said, would be to list it as “undetermined.” The former detective pointed out that yet another pathologist, Scott F. LaPoint, hired by Sedita last year, issued an opinion that the cause of death should be undetermined. CONTINUE