Margaret Fennell, godmother of the defendant Christopher Porco, was the first witness for the defense on Wednesday, Aug. 2. Christopher Porco is on trial for the murder of his father, Peter Porco, and attempted murder of his mother, Joan Porco.
Fennell testified that she called Joan Porco’s attorney John Polster about one month after the Nov. 15, 2004, murder of Peter Porco and the attack on Joan, to alert him that Joan mentioned seeing a mysterious stranger in the family’s driveway on Brockley Drive in Delmar in late September, 2004.
She (Joan Porco) said ‘a very scary thing happened to me,’ said Fennell on Wednesday. Fennell said Joan Porco told her about the stranger she saw in the driveway one night who disappeared quickly when the motion sensor lights outside 36 Brockley Drive were activated.
Polster then contacted Chief Prosecutor Michael McDermott so he could follow up on the potential lead. Fennell said she relayed her story to two police investigators who were more interested in Christopher Porco.
`They asked me why Chris called me,` said Fennell. Joan Porco was still being treated at Albany Medical Center for the severe injuries she received from an assailant who attacked her inside her Brockley Drive home on Nov. 15, 2004 in the middle of the night.
`Chris asked about his mother being moved to Sunnyview,` stated Fennell. Sunnyview is a rehabilitation hospital in Schenectady.
`In the 20 months between then and now, did the Bethlehem police department ever come back to your home to ask you these type of questions?` asked Defense Attorney Laurie Shanks.
`No, they did not,` said Fennell.
Fennell said she did meet with McDermott at the end of May to discuss the stranger in the driveway.
`Is it fair to say the stranger in the driveway is something Mrs. Porco mentioned once and then never mentioned again?` asked McDermott in his cross examination of the defense witness.
`That’s correct,` said Fennell.
Fennell told McDermott she had occasional contact with Joan Porco throughout 2004, and sometimes they would talk about Johnathan and Christopher, Joan Porco’s two sons.
`Did Mrs. Porco ever complain to you Chris was not communicating with her in the fall of 2004 up until the day Peter Porco was murdered?` asked McDermott.
`I really can’t recall,` Fennell said.
`Did she ever tell you Peter Porco was having a nervous breakdown?` said McDermott.
`Objection, Your Honor,` Shanks requested.
`Sustained,` said Judge Jeffrey Berry.
Fennell told jurors she never saw anyone in the Porco family ever act violent. Under more questioning from McDermott, Fennell said she was at the Porco home in November 2002 to celebrate Thanksgiving just after the Porcos had been burglarized.
`Do you remember Christopher Porco being there?` asked McDermott.
`Yes,` said Fennell.
`Did they seem concerned that someone broke into their house?` McDermott said.
Fennell said the family seemed `scared.`
Lynn Polster, a longtime family friend and wife of Joan Porco’s attorney John Polster, was the second witness for the defense. Polster testified that her family and the Porco family were very close, and that Christopher and Johnathan Porco were extremely kind friends to her foster child, Fred, now an adult.
`Chris and Fred would fish together, and they would go hiking together,` said Polster.
Polster echoed Fennell’s remarks that she never saw any violence inside the Porco home.
Polster said she found out about the attacks at 36 Brockley Drive that afternoon from her husband, followed by several radio and TV reports.
`They were saying Chris did this, and I called my husband and said I can’t believe this, what are we going to do,` said Polster.
Polster then went to Albany Medical Center to see Joan Porco, and observed Christopher Porco, who was also there.
`Christopher was subdued, always concerned about his mother,` Polster said. `Any time there was an opportunity to go by her bedside he did.`
Polster added the police have never asked her any questions about anything. McDermott had only one question for Polster.
`You don’t know anything about the murder, do you?` asked McDermott.
`I do not,` Polster said.
More witnesses, including a DNA expert to refute the testimony of Dr. Terry Melton, the prosecution’s DNA expert, is expected to testify on Thursday, Aug. 3. Also scheduled to testify are veterinarians Elaine LaForte and John Kearney of the Bethlehem Veterinary Hospital where Christopher Porco works. Porco is currently living at LaForte and Kearney’s home in Glenmont.