Kayla Gerdes was alone in a room at the homicide unit of the Nassau County Police Department when she yelled for assistance and Hempstead Village Police Officer Anthony Rogers came to help, he testified Tuesday.
It was nearly 12 hours after Gerdes had been arrested for allegedly driving the white van that ran over Rebecca Twine, 69, last April 20, killing Twine as she mowed the front lawn of her home on Cathedral Avenue.
"She [Twine] looked up at the last second," Rogers said Gerdes told him in an unsolicited statement. "But she was too old to get out of the way."
Rogers was the first to testify at the pretrial hearing for Gerdes, now 19, of Freeport. She is charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while impaired by drugs and driving without a license. If convicted at trial, she faces a maximum sentence of up to 59 years in prison.
Defense attorney John R. Lewis, of Farmingdale, is attacking the evidence gathered and procedures used to take Gerdes' statement. County Court Judge Tammy S. Robbins is hearing testimony, which resumes Wednesday.
Rogers said he was one of the first officers on the scene. He found Gerdes in the front passenger seat of the van talking on a cell phone; it was about 9:40 a.m., he said.
"I asked her who was driving, and she said, 'It was me. I was driving,' " Rogers said.
Rogers said he noticed Gerdes had slurred speech, glassy eyes and constricted pupils.
"I noticed she was unsteady on her feet," Rogers testified. "Her demeanor changed - one second excited, next she appeared to be almost depressed."
Gerdes was put in handcuffs and placed in the back of a police car, Rogers testified.
During cross-examination, Rogers admitted that police paperwork he filed and signed didn't mention Gerdes having glassy eyes or slurred speech.
Before Tuesday's hearing, Gerdes spoke out as she was escorted into the Mineola courthouse.
"The monster I've been portrayed to be, I'm not," Gerdes said to reporters.
"I'm so sorry for the family."
She took the wheel of the van because Steele was driving too slowly, police said.
There were discussions yesterdayTuesday between Lewis and Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern about a possible plea agreement. No agreement was reached, so the pretrial hearing began.
With Kathleen Kerr