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SUSPECT'S INTERROGATION AT ISSUE

James L. Ward was charged with the hammer slaying of a woman last year because of the statements of a couple with whom he and the victim lived, a detective testified in Niagara County Court Friday.

Ward, 31, is charged with murder and arson in the June 14 slaying of Isabella "Renee" Cox, 32, in the basement of 1321 South Ave., Niagara Falls. Cox was struck in the head with a hammer, police said, and a fire was set, allegedly to cover up the killing. The woman's body was found June 26 in a back yard at 1317 South Ave.

Niagara Falls Detective Frank Coney said in an evidence suppression hearing that he tried to get Ward to confess in a June 28 interview by telling him the police had physical evidence they didn't really have. Under cross-examination by defense attorney Angelo Musitano, Coney acknowledged the "ploy." Coney said he and Detective William Smith started questioning Ward knowing that Kimberly Kennedy, who also lived at the South Avenue address, had given other detectives a statement implicating Ward.

"Kim Kennedy had indicated that James Ward had admitted killing Isabella Cox?" First Assistant District Attorney Timothy R. Lundquist asked. "Correct," Coney replied.

Coney said Ward told him he was present with Kennedy, Cox and Kennedy's boyfriend, Clifford Jackson. When Kennedy and Jackson left, Ward said he did too, walking to his girlfriend's house on Mackenna Avenue. Ward said she wasn't home. At that point in the interview, Coney said, Ward asked to call a lawyer, which ended the interview. Coney had previously told Ward he had the right to remain silent.

Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. scheduled the hearing to continue next Friday after Lundquist and Musitano argued over whether police had probable cause to arrest Ward.

In another murder case, Charles Rogers was arraigned again Friday on a charge of being an accomplice to a murder.

A jury convicted him in 2001, but two weeks ago the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled Broderick issued faulty instructions to the jury.

Rogers was found guilty of acting as a lookout for Donald R. Montana, 28, of Buffalo, who was convicted of robbing and causing the death of Joseph Greene, 42, of Niagara Falls.

Greene was hit in the head with an unknown object in an alley behind his Ashland Avenue home on March 5, 2000, and died of a fractured skull two days later. Rogers' new trial was scheduled for Oct. 3.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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