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GUNMEN KILL 4 IN HOME ON E. SIDE
SECOND SUSPECT ARRESTED IN 'EXECUTION' MURDERS

Four people were shot to death and an 8-year-old girl was slightly wounded late Saturday night in a house along a troubled stretch of Koons Avenue on the city's East Side.

Buffalo homicide detectives, who worked throughout the day Sunday on one of the worst killings in the city's history, charged one man Sunday evening and apprehended the second at about 11 a.m. today. Both were charged with four counts of second-degree murder.

"This was a heinous execution of four individuals," Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina said in describing the killings of the two men and two women at 320 Koons.

Police gave no motive for the killings but said it was obvious the victims knew their attackers.

The dead were identified as:

Robert "Little Man" Brown, 40, of 320 Koons.

Tonisha Brown, 26, Brown's niece, also of 320 Koons.

Stacie Guest, 39.

Gregory Conwell, 42.

Guest and Conwell apparently were visiting.

Tonisha Brown's 8-year-old daughter suffered a gunshot wound to her right pinkie finger. She was treated in Women & Children's Hospital and released.

Robin Lynette-Brown, who lost her daughter Tonisha and brother Robert in the slayings, stood outside her home Sunday as detectives canvassed the neighborhood.

"I believe they were trying to take out my whole family," she said as dozens of sobbing family members and friends took turns hugging her and sobbing in her arms.

Police think that Robert Brown knew the two men who came to his door and allowed them inside.

"My 10-year-old grandson said the boys came to the doorstep and they were talking, you know, saying, 'Hey, what's going on? What's up, y'all?' " Lynette-Brown said.

"They came inside and started shooting," she said. "My daughter grabbed the kids, ran out the door, and they shot her in the neck as she was leaving."

Baby daughter unhurt

Deputy Police Commissioner Robert T. Chella said Tonisha Brown was found sprawled on the grass between the two houses by the first officers who responded to a neighbor's 911 call. Her 11-month-old daughter was unharmed next to her mother's lifeless body.

Chella said it appeared Tonisha Brown was running with her child when she was fatally shot in the neck.

Her mother, Lynette-Brown, said that minutes before the shooting, she left the home to visit a girlfriend several houses away on Koons.

She said she was on the telephone with her brother, Robert Brown, who was still at the Koons Avenue home, and heard gunfire after she hung up. She ran to her home.

"I saw my daughter lying there, and I was screaming, 'Who did this? Where's Little Man? Where's Little Man?,' " she said, referring to her brother Robert's nickname.

"I ran up the stairs hollering and hollering, but no one was answering," she said. "I was thinking, please not Little Man, please not Little Man. He was in the bedroom lying facedown on the floor and Stacie (Guest) was across from him, between the bed and the dresser."

Buffalo police issued a public appeal for information on the case.

Eight shots reported

Domenick Sutton, 21, of Boyd Street, was taken into custody about 6 p.m. Sunday. After questioning by detectives and Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, he was charged with four counts of second-degree murder.

Sutton appeared at a brief arraignment hearing this morning before City Court Judge Debra L. Givens, at which he was denied bail and entered a plea of not guilty. He is scheduled to appear at a felony hearing on Friday.

Justin Thompson, 24, of Butler Street was in police custody this morning after police say he turned himself into Homicide Squad Detective Timothy J. Salamone.

Investigators said both men have criminal records.

Diina said investigators earlier had found and impounded a black Chevrolet Lumina believed to have been used by the gunmen.

Investigators think the two men first went to the downstairs apartment shortly before 11:30 p.m. Saturday, where Tonisha, her three children, and her mother, Lynette-Brown, lived.

They then went to the upstairs apartment of Robert Brown, and said that after the friendly banter ended, a loud quarrel was heard and then repeated gunshots. A neighbor said eight shots were fired.

A brief tour of the house where the slayings took place showed a sparsely furnished home with worn carpets, a bare living room with only a fireplace, and peeling yellow paint on the exterior.

In the upstairs living room, the red carpet was bloodstained where Gregory Conwell was shot. In Robert Brown's bedroom, two pools of blood -- one from Brown, the other from Stacie Guest -- were surrounded by an overturned mattress. Several photographs of Brown's 21-year-old daughter, 22-month-old granddaughter and other loved ones were tacked to his dresser mirror.

Family members say the Koons Avenue home has been owned by the Brown family since 1975.

Koons, which runs from Broadway on the south to Genesee Street on the north, is one of the most impoverished streets in Buffalo.

The house is almost directly across Koons from Concordia Cemetery and several blocks north of Emerson Middle School, which is at Koons and Sycamore Street.

Six lived in the home

Six people lived at the Brown residence. Tonisha and her three children -- a 10-year-old son and the 8-year-old and 11-month-old daughters -- lived in the first-floor apartment, along with her mother. Robert Brown lived in the upper apartment.

Robert Brown, 40, graduated from Emerson High School, where he learned carpentry and cabinetmaking. At the time of his death, he was working part-time with his cousin, renovating houses, his sister said.

Brown spent four years in the Navy and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, refueling aircraft. He served in deployments to the Middle East and South America, was honorably discharged in 1986, and has worked odd jobs since then.

Family members say he has been arrested a few times. His sister says he had turned his life around.

"He had a big heart and he was very generous," said Lynette-Brown, 43, his older sister. "He would give you the shirt off his back. He was a teddy bear with a big heart."

Her daughter, Tonisha Brown, 26, attended BUILD Academy, Buffalo Traditional High School and night classes at Bennett High School. She dropped out of Buffalo Traditional in the mid-1990s and later earned her general equivalency diploma, her mother said.

About two years ago, she became a certified nursing assistant.

"She was smart, feisty, full of life and a straight shooter who never backed down," said her mother.

Stacie Guest was a 39-year-old married woman who had just given birth to her first child, a girl, two months ago, Lynette-Brown said. She had been on maternity leave from her job as a customer service representative.

Gregory Conwell worked as a cashier and laborer in Dunn's Market & Bakery on Fillmore Avenue. He was the father of two sons, ages 11 and 7.

Family members, neighbors and community members said they still were trying to come to grips with the shooting.

"The family is in a tremendous amount of pain, but this pain affects the whole neighborhood," Common Council President David A. Francyzk, who represents the Fillmore District and lives just blocks away from the Koons address, said at the crime scene.

"We don't want the pain of this to stop the hope of this neighborhood." Franczyk said.

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com
and mbeebe@buffnews.com

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