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Court documents reveal panic, confusion in Potsdam pedestrian death


POTSDAM — Laurel L. Randall told police she remembers sharing two bottles of wine with a friend Saturday afternoon, followed by a cocktail at a bar.

She then recalls striking something on May Road while driving home that night with two friends in her car, according to court papers.

“I had no idea what I hit,” Ms. Randall told police, saying she accepted her friends’ assessment that it was a deer, and drove on.

Court documents reveal confusion, panic and conflicting accounts from Ms. Randall and her passengers about the moments after Ms. Randall allegedly struck and killed pedestrian Fuli Wu, 59, a Chinese woman visiting relatives in the Potsdam area, about 8:30 p.m.

Facing charges in the case are Ms. Randall, 44, of 16 Debra Drive, and one of her passengers, Stephen E. Coates, 48, of 4 Missouri Ave., who allegedly helped to hide Ms. Randall’s 2007 Chevrolet Aveo. Officials at the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, said Monday that the pair had posted bail.

Another passenger, Leanna R. Perrigo-White, 33, of 3 River Road, Apt. 1, Norfolk, was not charged in the case. According to court documents, Ms. Perrigo-White called a friend, who then reported the incident to police.

Ms. Randall told police that she and Ms. Perrigo-White spent Saturday afternoon “hanging out” at Mr. Coates’s house, splitting two bottles of wine while Mr. Coates had “a few” beers. The three then went to a bar, Ms. Randall said, where she consumed a mixed drink, Ms. Perrigo-White had one beer and Mr. Coates drank “a couple” more beers.

It was dark, Ms. Randall said, when she drove down May Road toward her Debra Drive home. Near a power substation at a bend in the road, the car struck something, Ms. Randall said, shattering her windshield on the passenger side.

Ms. Randall told police that she told her friends to get out and check, and that Mr. Coates replied, “You hit a deer, just go.”

“Laurel said she thought she hit a deer, but none of us could see what was behind us because it was so dark,” Mr. Coates told police. “We then drove back to Laurel’s place and dropped off Leanna to get her car.”

Ms. Perrigo-White told police a different story, according to court papers.

“Coates jumped out of the car while it was still moving and ran back to check the person,” said Ms. Perrigo-White, adding that she also got out and followed Mr. Coates.

“Coates was yelling, ‘Oh, my God! You hit him! He’s not breathing! There’s blood! You killed him!’ I was so scared,” Ms. Perrigo-White said.

Ms. Randall got out of the car, “and asked if she really hit somebody,” Ms. Perrigo-White said. Panicked, the trio got back into the car, she said.

“Coates told Laurel to drive me back to my car at her place, and then Coates and Laurel planned to hide the car,” Ms. Perrigo-White told police.

Ms. Perrigo-White said that after she returned to her car about 8:40 p.m., she called a friend and that person called police for her to report the incident.

Police said they found the car in a garage on Missouri Avenue.

Tests revealed Ms. Randall’s blood alcohol content was 0.21 percent, police said. A BAC of 0.08 percent or more is considered proof of intoxication under state law. Aggravated DWI is charged when the BAC is 0.18 percent or more.

Besides DWI and aggravated DWI, Ms. Randall was charged with first-degree vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident, tampering with physical evidence and conspiracy.

Mr. Coates was charged with tampering with physical evidence and conspiracy.

An autopsy performed Sunday night at Canton-Potsdam Hospital revealed Ms. Wu died of blunt force trauma, St. Lawrence County Coroner June H. Wood said, with the cause ruled accidental.

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