Manslaughter Charge Dismissed Against Hunter In Shooting Accident

Thomas Jadlowski

A manslaughter charge was dismissed this week against a Sherman man who shot and killed his neighbor in a hunting accident in November.

In a four-page ruling issued Wednesday, Chautauqua County Court Judge David Foley said the District Attorney’s Office erred when it presented its case in front of a grand jury against Thomas Jadlowski in the death of Rosemary Billquist. Specifically, Foley said District Attorney Patrick Swanson failed to answer a question of a grand juror regarding a lesser charge against the Sherman man.

Jadlowski was indicted by the grand jury on charges of second-degree manslaughter and hunting after dark.

Swanson said he did not agree with Foley’s ruling.

“It’s a decision I disagree with,” Swanson told The Post-Journal. “There were some legal hyper-technicalities that I don’t agree with. At this point we have to decide whether to appeal the decision or bring it back to the grand jury.”

However, Swanson said appealing the decision to an appellate court presents “logistical issues” as rulings could take several months. He said his office has 30 days to re-submit the case to another grand jury.

“We have to decide what’s best moving forward,” Swanson said. “The reality is the appeal would take a lot longer, and there are resources that have to be considered.”

According to Foley, the issue began after Swanson gave the grand jury instructions on second-degree manslaughter. A juror asked the district attorney, “What is the next step down? Manslaughter three, if there is such a thing?”

Swanson replied: “The next step down is criminally negligent homicide.”

The district attorney paused before continuing, “I’m going to ask for your consideration on manslaughter second. And I may be back in to ask you to consider on criminally negligent, but I’m asking you to consider manslaughter second first.”

In his ruling, obtained by The Post-Journal, Foley said Swanson should have instructed the grand jury regarding the lesser charge. The judge did note, however, that there was enough evidence to support the original indictment.

“It was clear from the above referenced exchange that the grand jury had an interest, or at least being instructed on, a lesser degree of homicide,” Foley wrote. “It is the opinion of the court that the district attorney, as the grand jury’s legal advisor, had an obligation to answer their questions accurately and to comply with their request, by instructing them on criminal negligent homicide.”

The decision comes not long after an August trial date had been set for Jadlowski, who is being represented by Dunkirk attorney Michael Cerrie. Jadlowski told police he thought he saw a deer Nov. 22 when he fired a single shot, striking Billquist.

Billquist was rushed to an Erie, Pa., hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

Swanson said he spoke to Billquist’s family Thursday evening after learning of Foley’s decision. He said he will thoroughly review his options before moving forward.

“Judge Foley found we had sufficient evidence for the indictment,” Swanson said. “This was a hyper-technicality that we should have discussed the lesser offense.”

“This is part of the system,” he continued. “We are still learning our new court.”

Cerrie did not return multiple calls for comment.