The Buffalo News
Psychiatrist who nearly drove into Niagara River is subject of Rochester criminal investigation
By Phil Fairbanks
September 15, 2014
The tale of Matthew Straton’s suspicious death took on a new twist when a car belonging to the man accused of trying to hide his body was found at the bottom of a 40-foot embankment on Grand Island.
Rescuers say William Lewek, the 62-year-old psychiatrist charged in the high-profile case, was outside the car, knee deep in the Niagara River.
“He said, ‘I was texting, and I saw some kids running across the street, so I swerved to avoid them,” Bill Bender, of Amherst, one of the first three rescuers on the scene, said of Lewek.
Lewek’s car crash follows his indictment eight months ago on felony charges of tampering with physical evidence and drug possession. The charges stem from the discovery of Straton, 32, in a shallow grave in Lewek’s backyard in Rochester.
Police also claim they found 17 small bags of crack cocaine at Lewek’s house. Lewek is a certified addiction counselor.
Authorities say the doctor removed Straton’s body from a third-floor bedroom at the house and tried to conceal it in the backyard last October.
They claim Lewek admitted burying the body, although no cause of death has yet been determined.
Erie County sheriff’s deputies say Lewek, who was out on bail, was traveling at an “unreasonable” speed when his car went down a hill off East River Road just north of the South Grand Island Bridge.
Authorities say that the car stopped before entering the water but that Lewek got out and reportedly walked into the river.
“He told them he had been in the water since midnight,” said Bender’s wife, Nina.
She said her husband, daughter Angela and Angela’s boyfriend, Matthew Case, were fishing and drifting north along the river when Case spotted Lewek’s car, and Angela noticed Lewek in the water.
Bender called 911 and then maneuvered his boat to within a few feet of the shoreline.
“Matt was the first one in the water,” he said of his daughter’s boyfriend.
Once he and Angela were on shore, they noticed several police cars looking for Lewek, unable to find him.
“She climbed up the embankment and flagged them down,” Nina Bender said of her daughter.
Lewek was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where he was in stable condition Monday.
The investigation is continuing.