AP NEWS

Man takes stand to deny flipping woman to her death in river

February 23, 2019

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A man accused of hurling a woman to her death in a northeastern Pennsylvania river two years ago took the stand to deny that he was responsible and accuse police of lying about an alleged confession.

Ryan Taylor, 26, said Friday he blacked out after smoking synthetic marijuana with 28-year-old Danee Mower and several other people on the banks of the Lackawanna River in February 2017, the (Scranton) Times-Tribune reported. He said he had no idea that Mower lay face down, drowning, just a few feet away in a shallow area of the river.

“She passed me the joint and I apparently had a seizure,” Taylor said. “I had no reason to think she was in the river.”

Lackawanna County prosecutors allege that Taylor grabbed Mower by the ankles during an argument and flipped her into the water, where she died of drowning and hypothermia.

Prosecutors played phone calls between Taylor and relatives in which he repeatedly denied having pushed Mower into the river. In one, he said she “fell off a cliff” and he grabbed her to try to save her but couldn’t hold on. He also said he alerted someone to call 911. Asked about the conflict between his phone conversations and his testimony and that of witnesses, Taylor said he was following the advice of “jail house lawyers” who suggested he tell family he tried to save Mower.

Taylor also disputed the testimony of Scranton detectives who said he confessed. Asked under cross-examination by prosecutors whether the detectives were lying, he said “Yes.”

Defense attorney Matthew Comerford has argued that even if jurors in the first- and third-degree murder trial decide that Taylor did what is alleged, Mower should have easily been able to escape the waist-deep water if not for her medical history and drug use. Comerford called a forensic pathologist to testify that Mower’s drowning was accidental caused in part by medical conditions that left her in a weakened state, a conclusion that drew an incredulous reaction from Deputy District Attorney Sara Varela.

“She’s drowning and the second she hits the water, her Hepatitis C kicks in?” Varela said. “That’s the same as a cancer victim being shot in the head and saying cancer is a contributing factor.”

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Information from: The Times-Tribune, http://thetimes-tribune.com/