Geneseo, N.Y. --- 13WHAM News has uncovered exclusive new details about the case of a man facing charges linking him to a fatal hit and run in February.
The incident occurred in the early morning hours of February 12, 2012 on Route 15A in Lima. Later that morning a neighbor reported finding the body of Billy Ehrmentraut, 51, in a snowy ditch just off the roadway.
Michael Manley, 27, called 9-1-1 many hours later after hearing about Ehrmentraut’s death. He told police that he thought he struck a deer on the road while driving home and that snowy, white-out conditions made visibility difficult.
In court Tuesday, members Ehrmentraut’s family came face-to-face with Manley for the first time.
"My son didn't deserve to be struck down like that,” Gerri Ehrmentraut said. “And for him just to drive off he couldn't even stop to see if he could help him.”
"I mean if I'm driving and I strike something I'm going to stop and see what happened," Becky Watson a friend of the Ehrmentraut family said.
Manley is charged with Leaving the Scene of an Incident Without Reporting, Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle, and 2nd Degree Perjury. The Perjury charge is for allegedly lying to Livingston County Sheriff’s Office investigators in his statement to them.
A closer look at court paperwork on file at the Livingston County Clerk’s Office reveals dozens of pages of statements witnesses made to police in the hours and days following this collision.
The numerous statements describe a long day and night of Manley drinking with friends.
"I did start drinking around noon time with Mike,” a friend and the owner of the SUV involved in the crash told police in one statement. “We drank until around 9pm... We drank a thirty pack of Busch together."
Manley is not accused of driving drunk and turned himself into police many hours after the crash. After court Tuesday, his lawyer reiterated his client’s innocence.
"There is only one witness to what was, I think, a terrible accident and that witness corroborates my client's story that he did not violate the law and so we're preparing for trial," Adam Militello said.
The witness Militello refers to was the lone passenger in that SUV and the wife of the vehicle’s owner. She repeatedly told police that she was very “wasted” but relayed certain recollections she did have of that night.
“I remember going, 'oh my God Mike what did you hit,' and he said something like, 'we hit a deer,' or, 'I think we hit a deer,'” the woman told police in one statement. “Mike just kept driving and went to our apartment. We did not stop."
Another witness who surveyed the vehicle’s damage after Manley returned home and informed others that he thought he struck a deer told police, "I did not see any deer hair or blood so I thought they might have hit something else."
The SUV’s owner also told police later that morning after learning of Ehrmentraut’s death, "Mike said something like, 'we should just get rid of the truck.'"
"He has to live with what he's done. That's the whole thing; we have to live with it also but he has to live with his conscience," Karen Lawrence, Ehrmentraut's sister said after court on Tuesday.
At the time of Manley’s arrest authorities said Manley’s license was suspended in 2008 for failing to answer a summons and pay a fine in the Town of Avon. That explained the traffic violation that was part of the criminal indictment Manley now faces.
13WHAM News learned this week from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles that Manley has never had a valid driver’s license in the this state. A junior permit was issued in January 2001, renewed in July 2002, and renewed again in 2006 according to a DMV spokesman.
On Tuesday Livingston County Court Judge Robert Wiggins recused himself from the case because Ehrmentraut’s sister is a longtime employee of the District Attorney’s Office and he used to work with her during his time in that office. Manley’s lawyer is asking the DA’s Office to also step aside in this case.
"Even in whatever shape he would have been in would've been better than this. He laid there for hours and hours and hours," Karen Lawrence, Ehrmentraut's sister, said after court.
"He was freezing cold. I mean his face, his hands, he was just freezing,” Ehrmentraut's mother said of her final image of her son. “Manley deserves the same thoughtless treatment that Bill got."