It began with sadness, and ended with business, as alleged TBA families and business owners presented their sides of the story in the trial of the former Marstons Mills-based charity, Touched By Angels, and its former President/CEO, Gina Clark, today.
D. Silva, first witness for the Commonwealth, detailed the horrible night of July 19, 2008, in which his friend, Paula Lemos, upon going through an intersection behind the Cape Cod Mall, struck sixteen-year-old Crystal Manchuk, who was leaving work at McDonald's. Throughout his testimony, Silva was asked multiple times by Karla Zarbo, Assistant Attorney General, about whether or not anyone else was with him at the scene of the accident besides Lemos and the paramedic, to which he said no. He also stated that “many people ended up gathering.” He stated that he observed Clark attempting to calm Lemos. He said that he did not recall seeing Clark near Crystal Manchuk.
Madeline and Kimberly “Kim” Manchuk, along with Natalie Duarte (Crystal's maternal grandmother), were then called, detailing their stories of how they came to meet Clark and know of her organization. Madeline Manchuk, Crystal's paternal grandmother, met Clark in a parking lot off the back of the mall, where Clark was with her son, Chris Manchuk, and his then-wife, Kim Manchuk. Allegedly, Clark told her during this meeting that: “I was with your Crystal when she died…I engulfed her in my arms, and I said: 'Help is on the way, and your family loves you.'” Manchuk also stated that Crystal said “mom” before she died.
Crystal's benefit was held at the Sons of Italy in Mashpee, and contained vendor tables, baskets of items to be raffled, and a buffet. There was a $20 entrance fee, which, according to Madeline Manchuk and Natalie Duarte, they had to pay to get in.
Duarte detailed her meeting with Clark, which allegedly took place in her daughter (Kim Manchuk's) driveway. Duarte alleged that she came upon a collection table for Crystal at Roche Brothers in Mashpee, and stated that she was told by the man sitting at the table (whom she identified as Chris) that the money would go to the family. Duarte also said that Clark told her that she had held Crystal in her arms before she died, and Crystal had said “Mom,” before passing away. Clark also gave Duarte a necklace that she allegedly said she had held in Crystal's hand as she was dying. Kim Manchuk, Crystal's mother, also allegedly was told by Clark that she was with Crystal when she died, and that, as she was dying, Crystal held a stone with an angel in it, which Clark gave to Kim Manchuk.
Fund's cross-examination of Madeline Manchuk focused on the fact that she had allegedly told an investigator from the Attorney General's office that she met Clark in the parking lot with her son and daughter-in-law, not her son and daughter, as stated on the witness stand. Cross-examination of Duarte touched on Kevin Duarte's (Natalie Duarte's son and Kim Manchuk's brother) possible role in meeting Clark and possible asking for her to attend Crystal's wake.
Kim Manchuk detailed her experience with Clark on the stand; namely, the fact that she was told to write Crystal's “life story” so it could be posted on TBA's website, and the details of the contract she signed. Manchuk stated that she was told that proceeds from the charity's fundraising efforts would be split 80/20, with “80 percent of everything that came in” going to her family.
Handwritten on the first contract Manchuk signed (entered as evidence) is the statement “less cost of food” in relation to the expected amount the family would receive. Manchuk stated that she did not remember when that was put in, and she signed another contract after telling Clark that she did not want invitations mailed out under her maiden name, as it would upset her family. Clark then allegedly stated that she must sign a new contract for that to occur. Manchuk said that she thought it was the same contract, but the new contract (entered as evidence), states that “less cost of food” is in the actual text, not as a handwritten addition. Clark allegedly offered the Manchuk family a limo ride to the benefit, to which Manchuk said that she did not take because “It wasn't a celebration for us…it wasn't a happy time.” Manchuk also noticed Clark's angel wing attire, and saw them as “disrespectful and out of place.”
Manchuk wanted to set up a meeting after the benefit to see the breakdown of the money raised, and was told that she had to come up to the Plymouth office of TBA. She allegedly met with Stephen Ledwell, her mother, one of her daughter's friends, and another TBA employee, Kristy Miller. The amount she was told she would be given was $2,680. She stated that was a discrepancy between the amount of people listed in the sign-in log (125) and the amount of people they gave as the number of people (60).
“Right off the bat, [the] math didn't work,” she said. At the meeting, she allegedly also saw “a few original checks” from a folder. Fund, as part of cross-examination, showed her multiple other checks that Manchuk said were not shown to her. TBA paid some of her bills through checks, which she was allegedly not allowed to see before the payments were mailed off.
Fund's cross-examination of Kim Manchuk further concentrated on Kevin Duarte (Manchuk's brother) and Clark's possible communication before Clark and Kim Manchuk met. She showed Manchuk e-mails from her brother to Clark, which contained Manchuk's address and home phone number.
J.Ette Bantolino, who runs the carousel at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis and has known Kim Manchuk for at least 12 years, allegedly was asked by Clark at her place of employment (the carousel) if she could contribute to help the Manchuks. She allegedly gave Clark twenty tickets to the carousel at that time, and 200 at the Manchuk's benefit. She said that she has “no clue” what happened to the tickets, and that, a few months after the benefit, she went to the TBA website and saw them for sale online. Fund proposed in cross-examination that the tickets could have been sold online to benefit the Manchuk family.
The last two hours of the trial were filled with business, as both James Needham (owner of KON limousine service, which donated limo rides to TBA families to get to their respective benefits on four separate occasions) and Nicole Perry (a graphic designer who acted as a vendor at TBA benefits and sold items with Crystal's picture on them at allegedly wholesale prices so they could then be sold by TBA at retail cost to benefit the family) both testified.
According to an immediately post-trial attorney/judge conference, the Commonwealth is set to call twenty-seven more witnesses. The trial will re-commence at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 23.
For more details on the Manchuk familiy's experience with Touched by Angels, see story here: