DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The car that killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus in Fort Greene two years ago was leaking noxious gas fumes, had steering problems, faulty wheels and would not have passed a state inspection, according to an NYPD mechanic who inspected it after the fatal 2015 crash.
The 2004 Chevy Suburban driven by Marlon Sewell — on trial this week for manslaughter in the death of Nicodemus — had a host of issues that made it unfit to drive, Det. Louis Viggiano said on the stand Tuesday at Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Viggiano, who has worked as an NYPD mechanic for more than a decade, said the car’s steering system was shot, making it likely the car would pull to one side, and three of its wheels should have been replaced. The detective inspected the car in January 2016 as part of an investigation into the Dec. 6, 2015 crash in which Nicodemus and two others were hit by Sewell’s car on a Fulton Street sidewalk.
In the inspection, Viggiano said the car emitted a strong smell of gas, likely from a malfunctioning fuel regulator that was leaking gasoline. The detective, who is approved to inspect vehicles in New York State, said he wouldn’t have passed the car in a state inspection.
At the time the crash took place, Sewell was driving the Chevy with an expired inspection sticker and told two members of the NYPD he had previously felt light-headed and woozy from the car’s fumes, according to testimony from multiple police department witnesses who have testified at the trial, now in its fourth day.
Prosecutors are trying to prove Sewell knew about the dangerous conditions in the car before the crash and, by ignoring them, recklessly caused the death of Nicodemus, the district attorney’s office said following a grand jury indictment of Sewell last summer.
The jury has so far heard from witnesses of the crash, seen images of the scene — including a video of the crash site that drew tears from Nicodemus’ family, who have attended each day of the trial — and heard testimony from several NYPD investigators who responded to the incident.
Sewell himself has not testified, but the jury has heard from him through officers who spoke with him on the day of the crash. An officer from the 88th Precinct who ultimately arrested Sewell told the jury he was with the defendant in the back of an ambulance when they got word Nicodemus had died.
“He said ‘I can’t believe I killed that woman,’” the officer recalled.
Sewell’s attorney Damien Brown has said his client is innocent and prosecutors are “reaching” with the manslaughter charge.
If convicted, Sewell faces up to 15 years in prison. The trial continues Wednesday morning in front of Judge Vincent Del Guidice.