Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — The man accused of running down and killing a Falls mother, and then leaving the scene of the crime, says he didn’t know he had hit someone.
In a statement given to Falls Police Traffic Division officers Wednesday night, Francis Maikranz made a claim eerily similar to one from a defendant in a high profile hit and run fatality in Erie County.
“He acknowledged striking something, but he didn’t know what he’d struck,” Traffic Officer James VanEgmond said. “He said he didn’t realize what he had struck. He chose not to stay (at the crash scene). Only he knows why he didn’t choose to stop.”
Crash investigators say Maikranz hit and killed Nicole Rodriguez and injured her 6-year-old son as they crossed Hyde Park Boulevard at Jerauld Avenue at 10 p.m. June 18. The mother and the little boy were in the crosswalk at the time they were struck.
Maikranz, 54, 2238 Whitney Ave., has been charged him with leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge during an arraignment in Falls City Court Thursday morning and was jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Maikranz’s claim that he didn’t know he had hit a person is the same line of defense that was used by Dr. James Corasanti, who was acquitted of striking and killing a young skateboarder in Amherst. Corasanit and his defense team argued to a jury that he knew he “had hit something,” but didn’t know what and kept on driving.
The Erie County Court jury acquitted Corasanti of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter. They found him guilty of only a misdemeanor drunken driving charge.
“I do expect the ‘Corasanti defense’,” Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violante said. “It appears (Maikranz will use it) at this point. I think we need to deal with (that possibility). It’s unfortunate that we have that involved (in this case).”
Maikranz was taken into custody by Traffic Division officers, acting on a tip from the public, at a Town of Niagara home Wednesday evening.
“(The arrest) could not have been accomplished without the help the media and the tip calls we received from the public,” VanEgmond said.
VanEgmond said investigators tracked more than 60 separate leads before being led to Maikranz’s girlfriend’s home. His heavily damaged 1997 Chrysler Sebring convertible was in the garage next to the residence.
“There had been some work done on the vehicle,” VanEgmond said. “But we were able to recover all of the parts that had been removed.”
Investigators said among the recovered parts were the smashed windshield of the convertible.
On Tuesday, investigators had released still photos of what they believed was the car that hit and killed Rodriguez. Those pictures prompted the tip calls that led to Maikranz.
The pictures were captured by a video surveillance camera on a business near the intersection where the crash occurred.
“We had tremendous cooperation from the local businesses in the area,” VanEgmond said.
The pictures showed Maikranz’s car speeding away from the intersection. Investigators said Maikranz told them he was driving to his Whitney Avenue home from his girlfriend’s house at the time of the crash.
The force of the crash knocked Rodriguez’s son out of his shoes and threw him a short distance from the crosswalk. Investigators said they spoke to the little boy, but he was unable to provide them with much information.
He was treated at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo for non-life threatening injuries and has since been released and is at home with his father.
Crash investigators never got a chance to speak with Rodriguez, who was knocked unconscious by the force of the car hitting her. She was rushed to the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, where she died the next day.
Traffic officers had been actively seeking help from the public to locate the car and driver since the night of the crash.
“I don’t think I can stress enough (the importance of the tips from the public),” VanEgmond said. If we don’t have the information we got from the public, we’re not standing here right now.”