When Paul DeGraff Jr. got behind the wheel of his GMC Sierra pickup truck last Thursday night, police say, he had a blood alcohol level of over 0.18 percent.
That night, police say, DeGraff cut a trail of wreckage across Salem Street in Port Ewen that took the life of 18-year-old Derek Wood, who was walking along the shoulder of Salem Street when DeGraff's truck jumped a guardrail and ran him down.
DeGraff now faces vehicular manslaughter and DWI charges in Wood's death. Incredibly, it's not the first time DeGraff has faced prison time for manslaughter: In 1994, DeGraff was sentenced to six years for manslaughter in the shooting death of his girlfriend Debra Scism, a sentence he served two years of.
In this week's Kingston Times, reporter Jesse Smith has a must-read account of the parallels between the night of Scism's death in 1994 and the death of Derek Wood, which the paper deems "deadly deja vu." Both nights began with DeGraff doing shots and shooting darts with friends in a local league -- and ended with another person dead, DeGraff injured, and the sole first-hand account of the incident coming from a severely inebriated DeGraff.
On Nov. 30, 1994 — one month almost to the day before Derek Wood’s birth — DeGraff was playing with a dart league at the now-defunct Broadway tavern Suzie’s Fountain. DeGraff’s account of what happened next is contained in handwritten notes from an interview with police conducted two days after Scism’s death at AlbanyMedicalCenter where he was recovering from a gunshot wound through his left forearm. After drinking “beer and a couple of shots” at the bar, DeGraff claimed that Scism drove him home. After that, he told cops he remembered little, except Scism sitting on the bed threatening suicide with his Glock Model 23 .40-caliber pistol.
DeGraff told police the gun went off after he threw the weapon across the room in an attempt to get it away from her. According to police, a single gunshot pierced DeGraff’s left forearm, went through Scism’s head and a wall of the trailer.
Police told a different story — one that DeGraff later admitted was the truth — that he’d fired the gun during an “argument and physical confrontation” with his girlfriend.
Derek Wood's obituary was published in the Daily Freeman and on the website of the Gilpatric-VanVliet Funeral Home earlier this week. Wood's familiy is asking for donations to be made in his memory to fight drunk driving:
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 790 Watervliet Shaker Rd. #6, Latham, NY 12110.