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Motive, intent at issue in pickup truck murder case

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published 09/27/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 09/27/2012 11:30 PM

Jennifer L. Sanford was looking forward to having her boyfriend, Kevin S. Bialowas, home from prison, according to her testimony earlier this week at Bialowas’ murder trial in New London Superior Court.

But was she really?

Sanford said Bialowas, serving a six-month stint for tax evasion, was going to help her get off heroin when he came home. She admitted from the witness stand that withdrawing from the drug is agonizing but said she would ease the pain with methadone or another drug, Suboxone.

But according to Michelle Savalle, a one-time friend of Bialowas’ and Sanford’s who testified Thursday, Sanford told Savalle that she actually wanted to find a way to send Bialowas back to prison.

“She did say that she needed to get him locked up because she didn’t want to get clean,” Savalle testified.

On July 14, 2009, hours after he was released from a Middletown halfway house, Bialowas is accused of intentionally hitting his romantic rival, 33-year-old Stephen Germano, with his pickup truck in Norwich. Germano died of blunt traumatic injuries.

According to testimony, Germano, who had dated Sanford while Bialowas was in prison, chased Bialowas and Sanford from Baltic to the Norwichtown Green after Sanford told Germano, “You gotta go.”

Germano had gotten out of his truck to confront the couple when he was struck.

The state rested its case Thursday, and the defense is expected to call witnesses this morning. As the evidence heads to a jury next week, prosecutor Stephen M. Carney is expected to argue that Bialowas, 48, of Lisbon, intentionally ran down Germano and fled the scene. Bialowas’ attorney, John E. Franckling, contends that Bialowas was attempting to avoid Germano, who he says was threatening Bialowas and Sanford.

On Thursday, a woman who witnessed the incident from the second-story window of her home on East Town Street testified that Bialowas appeared to “gun the accelerator” before Germano was thrown onto the truck’s windshield.

Patricia Twomey, then known as Patricia Bell, provided testimony that conflicted with Sanford’s account of the incident. Sanford had testified that Bialowas wanted to go around Germano, who was standing in the roadway, but that Germano jumped on the hood of Bialowas’ pickup truck instead of moving out of the way.

Alerted by the squeal of brakes, Twomey said she looked out the window and it appeared that the man in the white pickup truck (Bialowas) was going to get out and fight with a man who was standing in the road (Germano). Then, Twomey said, the pickup accelerated and hit the man.

“It was very quick, like he gunned the accelerator and hit the man,” Twomey testified. “The man who was standing in front of the truck popped up on the roof and landed on the windshield.”

Twomey said she called 911 and went downstairs. She didn’t see the offending pickup truck when she ran out to find Germano lying face down on the roadway. He still had a pulse, but Twomey, a former emergency room nurse, said Germano’s breathing was labored and he was making a grunting noise usually associated with the end of life. She said he was making hand gestures indicative of a brain injury.

Germano died six days later of blunt traumatic injuries.

Sanford testified earlier this week that she told Bialowas to stop the car after Germano fell to the roadway, even though she thought Germano may have been faking his injuries. She said she told Bialowas they could explain to police what had happened.

Bialowas told her he had no driver’s license, registration or insurance and kept driving, she said. Sanford said she went to police with her story the next day.

Bialowas was detained for questioning the next day, when he went to visit his parole officer. At the Norwich Police Department, Patrolman Thomas Lazzaro interrogated Bialowas at length about his whereabouts at the time of the crash. Bialowas said he had been working with a friend in Colchester and denied any knowledge of the incident.

The jury will not be able to view video of the interrogation because Judge Arthur Hadden on Thursday granted a defense motion to suppress it. Hadden ruled that Bialowas was in custody at the time of the questioning and was not presented with the opportunity to waive his Miranda rights.

k.florin@theday.com

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