Officer: Michael Grasing charged with murder, drunken driving in crash that killed Brittney Walsh tried to walk away from scene
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Minutes after causing a horrific crash that killed a Lindenhurst teenager, a Babylon man stood outside his badly wrecked car, insisted he wasn't the driver and tried to walk away, a Suffolk police officer testified Tuesday at a pretrial hearing.
Michael Grasing, 33, is charged with second-degree murder in the June 24, 2012, death of Brittney Walsh, 18. Prosecutors say Grasing was speeding on Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst with a blood-alcohol content of .30 percent -- almost four times the legal limit of .08 percent -- when he hit the back of Walsh's sport utility vehicle, causing it to roll into a utility pole. Grasing's car hit another pole two blocks away.
Officer Robert Viscuso, one of the first officers at the scene, said Grasing was combative and smelled of alcohol.
"He said he wasn't driving, several times, and bystanders said he was lying," Viscuso said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe. Later, however, Viscuso said that Grasing told him he was the only one in the car.
His testimony came during a hearing to determine whether what Grasing said to police will be admissible at his eventual trial before State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead.
Viscuso said Grasing also kept trying to walk away from the scene, even after he was handcuffed, until Viscuso said he put Grasing facedown on the ground.
It is rare for motorists to be charged with murder in drunken driving cases, but Newcombe said the depravity of Grasing's actions make the charge appropriate in this case. She said that before the crash, a witness warned Grasing that his reckless driving was going to kill someone, and yet he continued at speeds of up to 100 mph before he hit Walsh, on her way home from work at Kmart.
After he was hospitalized, Newcombe said another police officer heard Grasing say about the case, "At least it wasn't a baby."
Walsh had graduated high school two days before she died in her car.
"It's hard seeing him," said her mother, Cheryl Walsh. "It doesn't get easy. We have a life sentence without Brittney. He [Grasing] should have a life sentence. He should pay."
Brittney's father, Thomas Walsh, said he and his wife keep busy running the scholarship foundation they started in Brittney's memory. It awards scholarships to graduating seniors who write essays on the funniest things they've seen or done, so the Walshes can laugh as they review entries.
They and Newcombe wore bracelets that read "SMILE14," which was Walsh's license plate.
Defense attorney William Keahon said he felt for the family, but the charge against his client was inappropriate.
"It was a tragic loss of life for a beautiful young lady," Keahon said. "I just don't want to see the tragedy continue."
During cross-examination, Viscuso said that although Grasing was combative and flailed his arms and legs, he didn't strike anyone. As he held Grasing on the ground, Viscuso said he rubbed his back and told him to calm down.
The hearing will resume June 5.