It was a sobering day for everyone involved.
In the minutes after the jury read its verdict, former Det. Kevin Spellman’s fiancée rocked in her seat, hugging herself as she wept. Two generations of Drane Nikac’s family sobbed and her daughter asked to leave the courtroom.
Last week, the Bronx District Attorney closed its more than three-year-old case against Mr. Spellman, a 45-year-old Riverdale resident and 22-year NYPD veteran who was a detective on the Regional Fugitive Taskforce when he struck and killed Ms. Nikac on Oct. 30, 2009 with his government-issued Chevy Malibu.
But many wounds remain open.
The verdict of manslaughter in the second degree means Mr. Spellman was found to have recklessly caused Ms. Nikac’s death. But he was acquitted on first-degree vehicular manslaughter, which would have indicated that he did so while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of .18 or higher. He was also found not guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, a charge waged against those who kill after getting drunk and then getting behind the wheel and driving recklessly.
Ms. Nikac, an Albanian from Montenegro who immigrated to the U.S. more than 15 years ago, was pushing a cart full of cans when Mr. Spellman’s car slammed into her in the middle of the crosswalk at Kingsbridge Avenue and West 232nd Street, throwing her approximately 40 feet through the air and leaving her hair embedded in his windshield.
The night before, Mr. Spellman had signed out of the 50th Precinct around midnight. In the aftermath of the fatal crash investigators told The Riverdale Press they believed Mr. Spellman had been drinking at a popular police hangout near the precinct house before setting off for his North Riverdale home. However, that wasn’t entered into evidence.
Beer cans — one open and empty with his DNA on it — were found inside Mr. Spellman’s car and his utterances to cops on the scene indicated that he mistook Ms. Nikac for a man.
After securing a warrant more than five hours after the crash, police tested Mr. Spellman’s blood and found it at nearly three times the legal limit to drive.