Drunk driver, witness biter sentenced to state prison

WHITE PLAINS — A tearful Serena Walsh (left) apologized in court today for seriously hurting a Yonkers woman in a drunken-driving smash-up, in which she also bit a witness who tried to stop her from fleeing.

The apology came as a Westchester County judge sentenced Walsh, a 26-year-old New Rochelle resident, to two to six years in state prison for her behavior on the night of Sept. 28, 2009.

Walsh was driving drunk on Central Park Avenue when, police said, she ran two red lights and plowed into the driver’s side of a car near Underhill Street.

The 55-year-old driver was left unconscious, with injuries including a broken pelvis, arm and leg. Assistant District Attorney Nadine Nagler said the woman had to replace teeth that were knocked out in the crash.

“I want to apologize for what she had to go through,” Walsh said today, crying.

After the collision, police said, Walsh left her car, tossed her keys in the air and ran away, biting the arm of a witness who tried to stop her.

She later had a confrontation with Yonkers police when they found her at her boyfriend’s apartment. She began cursing at officers and tried to prevent them from leaving by sprawling on the hood of a cruiser, police said.

Walsh’s case went to trial in November, but she stopped it and pleaded guilty to felony charges of first-degree vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated and a misdemeanor charge of attempted assault.

Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit told Walsh today that her conduct that night put everyone on the road at risk.

“Your conduct … showed extreme selfishness,” he said.

Trial begins in drug-connected Mount Vernon slaying


A man accused of taking part in the robbery and killing of a suspected Mount Vernon drug dealer two years ago went on trial for the crime in Westchester County Court this morning.

A jury of eight men and four women will decide if 27-year-old Keith Wilkinson (left) aided and abetted in the fatal shooting of 38-year-old Leaton Burke in January 2009. Prosecutors are not saying that Wilkinson was the shooter, but are arguing that he is equally guilty under the law because he “acted in concert” with others who killed Burke and beat up Burke’s roommate.

Burke, who was shot once in the head, execution style, at his home at 613 S. 10th Ave. on Jan. 27, 2009.  After finding Burke mortally wounded, Mount Vernon police searched his apartment and found 5 pounds of marijuana worth about $20,000 and a loaded illegal handgun.

Burke’s 55-year-old roommate, Fernando Cofressi, told police that he stepped outside of the home for a cigarette that night and was grabbed by two masked men, who were apparently waiting for Burke. Assistant District Attorney Nadine Nagler told the jury today the masked men began demanding “the stuff.” When Cofressi could not help them, he was beaten and left in a basement laundry room with his hands tied and mouth covered with duct tape.

When Burke came home, the masked men jumped him, yelled at him, shot him and left him for dead in the basement. By that time, Cofressi had managed to get his cell phone form his pocket and called 911.

The case went unsolved for more than a year, until Wilkinson’s girlfriend told police he confessed to his role in the fatal robbery. burke was arrested Jan. 17, 2010 and indicted on eight felonies, including murder, robbery, burglary, gun possession and assault.

Nagler said Wilkinson made statements to police that implicated himself in the crime, such as asking what would happen if he was “only the driver.” Another friend of Wilkinson also plans to testify that Wilkinson admitted to being involved, Nagler said.

But defense lawyer Richard Ferrante urged the jury not to jump to any conclusions and to listen to the witnesses carefully. He noted that no DNA evidence links his client to the scene and questioned if police did all they could to find other suspects in the case.

The trial, before county Judge Susan Cacace, will continue tomorrow and could go to the jury as soon as next week.