February 5, 2008
Grand Jury Returns DWI Murder Indictment
Rice: McPherson was fleeing gun shots, traveled wrong way on parkway for 5 miles with .19 BAC and a gun in the car
MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced that a grand jury has returned a murder indictment of a 21-year-old Deer Park man arrested in October of last year following a wrong-way DWI car crash that killed an Amityville man. Rice said that an investigation following the crash uncovered ballistic evidence that has linked a gun recovered in the defendant’s automobile to a shooting in Hempstead moments before the deadly crash on the Southern State Parkway. The investigation also determined that the defendant was operating his vehicle with a .19 blood-alcohol concentration, more than twice the legal limit to drive.
The indictment charges Franklin McPherson, the operator of the 1999 Lexus involved in the crash, with Murder in the Second Degree (under circumstances evincing a ‘depraved indifference to human life’). The 10-count indictment also includes lesser charges of Manslaughter and Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degrees, Reckless Endangerment, Aggravated DWI, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree.
Police officers responding to the scene following the crash recovered a 9mm handgun and a bag of cocaine. Along with Mr. McPherson, the passenger in the automobile, 21-year-old Roman Taylor, of Wyandanch, has been indictment by the grand jury on the gun and drug charges.
Mr. McPherson faces a maximum of 25 years-to-life in prison if convicted of the charges. Mr. Taylor faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted of the charges. Mr. McPherson was remanded to the Nassau County jail. He is due back in court February 26. Mr. Taylor will remain free on $5,000 bail.
Rice said that on October 19, 2007, at approximately 3:20 AM, 911 calls were received about shots being fired in the Municipal Parking Lot next to the Island Rock Lounge in Hempstead. Immediately thereafter, the screeching tires of a vehicle were heard leaving the same area. The Hempstead Police responded and were unable to identify the shooter(s). No one appeared to have been shot and there was no dispute reported. A canvas of the area revealed the presence of five 9mm shell casings which were recovered.
Approximately 10 minutes later, 911 calls were received reporting a vehicle traveling the wrong direction on the Southern State Parkway. The car was a silver Lexus and the first known observations of the car were between exits 18 and 19. The Lexus was seen traveling about 70 miles per hour at various points before it collided head-on into a Jeep Cherokee driven by 44-year-old Leslie Burgess. Near exit 13, the Jeep became airborne and flipped over several times landing on its side on the south shoulder of the parkway. A fire engulfed the vehicle within minutes and Mr. Burgess was killed.
The Lexus collided with the center median after striking the Cherokee. Franklin McPherson was unconscious and pinned behind the steering wheel. He sustained 2 broken legs and a blood test later determined that he was more than twice the legal limit to drive. Roman Taylor, the passenger, sustained a fractured back. A bag of cocaine was recovered from the car along with a 9mm handgun and ammunition. The 5 shell casings from the Island Rock parking lot shooting were found to match the gun recovered in the car.
The ‘depraved indifference’ murder charge handed down by the grand jury marks the first time in more than two years that a grand jury has returned a murder charge in connection with a DWI crash. In September of 2005, a grand jury returned a murder indictment of Martin Heidgen following a wrong-way crash on the Meadowbrook Parkway that claimed the lives of two innocent victims. In October 2006, the Rice administration successfully obtained the unprecedented murder conviction and the defendant is now serving 18 years-to-life in prison.
District Attorney Rice has tabbed Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick, Chief of her Vehicular Crimes Bureau and lead prosecutor in the successful DWI murder conviction of Martin Heidgen, to handle the case for the office. Mr. McPherson is being represented by Dennis Lemke, Esq., of Mineola. Mr. Taylor is being represented by Anthony Grandinette, Esq., of Mineola.
Rice commended the hard work of the New York State Police, Troop L, Bureau of Criminal Investigation under the command of Major Walter Heesch.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.