Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark began efforts Tuesday to obtain DNA evidence from Altemio C. Sanchez, as the Cheektowaga man was arraigned on murder indictments in the deaths of Majane Mazur and Linda S. Yalem.
Sanchez stood silent as his attorney, Andrew C. LoTempio, entered pleas of not guilty to a charge of intentional second-degree murder in the Mazur case and two murder charges in the Yalem case.
Sanchez, dressed in a gray business suit, white shirt and tie, said "uh-huh" and nodded as State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns advised him of his constitutional rights as a suspect under indictment.
At the end of the brief court session, the judge scheduled a hearing for Monday morning on the prosecution request to obtain a buccal swab of Sanchez's DNA.
That swab sample, requested by Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III and homicide prosecutor Kenneth F. Case, involves the use of a toothbrush-style swab rubbed on the upper inner cheek of a suspect to obtain DNA-loaded saliva.
After Tuesday's court session, Clark said he wants the buccal swab to obtain "a more pristine" sample of Sanchez's DNA.
Sanchez was arrested Jan. 15 on the basis of DNA samples found on glassware he had been using in an Amherst restaurant two days earlier.
Clark acknowledged that the restaurant samples could contain "a certain amount of contamination" but are still legally sound.
There is "never a perfect match" of DNA, Clark said, and the pristine sample he seeks from Sanchez directly will increase from 10 billion-to-1 to 100 trillion-to-1 the chance that only Sanchez could have left the samples at the crime scenes.
LoTempio complained to the judge about "too much leaking of information" about his client by law enforcement officials. He declined to comment on the upcoming DNA hearing.
Sanchez's wife, Kathleen, was in the courtroom for the arraignment but declined to comment as she left with friends.
Amid requests from broadcast and print media to show the courtroom proceedings, Burns on Tuesday allowed a Buffalo News still photographer to take a pool photograph.
After LoTempio objected to news media coverage inside the courtroom, Burns ruled that he would deny the overall requests except for a single "still" photo.
Chief Scott R. Patronik of the Erie County Sheriff's Office said detectives are still working on Sanchez's possible connection to the murder of jogger Joan Diver in Newstead last fall.
Clark confirmed that authorities have "one witness" who says Sanchez was seen on the bike path where Diver was killed "several weeks before" that homicide.
Noting that Sanchez's DNA was found inside the vehicle Diver was driving on the day she was slain, Clark said he is "optimistic" about the outcome of that homicide investigation.