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Slaying in Amherst is reflective of anguish

To the neighbors on Kaymar Drive in Amherst, Richard B. D'Andrea seemed like a normal, suburban youth.

He went to Sweet Home High School and liked to shoot hoops in the driveway of his grandmother's Kaymar home.

They had no idea that D'Andrea, 21, would one day be accused of fatally beating his 73-year-old grandmother, Vel Sedita.

"He was a sweet, quiet kid," said a neighbor who asked not to be identified.

Neighbors had few clues about how deeply troubled D'Andrea's life was. His mother, Dawn L. Burroughs, 43, the daughter of Sedita, is a convicted prostitute who has also been arrested on drug charges.

His father is no longer a part of his life.

D'Andrea was bounced around from home to home, living with his mother, his maternal grandfather and Sedita.

An incident 2 1/2 years ago offers a revealing glimpse into D'Andrea's life.

On July 7, 2004, Buffalo police conducted a prostitution sting at his mother's Folger Street home in South Buffalo.

His mother agreed to perform a sexual act and dance for undercover detectives for $160 an hour, police said.

As they escorted his mother out of the house in handcuffs, police noticed D'Andrea sitting in a blue Cadillac nearby.

"He wasn't crying. He wasn't aggressive. He was nonchalant," said Buffalo Police Detective David Sugg, who recalled the arrest and seeing D'Andrea, who was then just 18, waiting in the car.

"He knew we were arresting his mom," Sugg said. "He basically knew what his mother was doing. . . . Talk about a lack of family structure. I think this totally screwed this kid up."

Neighbors on Kaymar described his grandmother as a kindhearted woman who tried her best with her grandson, raising him while his mother was in and out of jail.

Defense attorney Andrew C. LoTempio said that there was a dark side to his grandmother.

"She had a history of psychiatric problems," LoTempio said. "She was on all types of medication. . . . By all means, I don't want to trash this lady, but she had her problems with alcohol and abusing prescriptions."

LoTempio spoke Wednesday with The Buffalo News, moments after a brief court appearance for D'Andrea in Amherst Town Court. With a blackened right eye and wearing handcuffs, D'Andrea glanced at his four family members who were sitting in the courtroom. His attorney waived his right to a felony hearing, and the case is being sent to a grand jury.

LoTempio said D'Andrea attended eight to 10 schools in his lifetime.

He was in a group home from age 13 to 16, and he dropped out of Sweet Home High in 10th grade. He also began drinking alcohol at age 13, his attorney said.

"It's an unfortunate, horrible situation," LoTempio said. "I'm not saying he did or didn't do this. . . . If Richard had anything to do with this, I'd imagine that his upbringing had something to do with this."

Criminologist James Sobol said D'Andrea may have been deeply scarred by his mother's criminal history.

"It's hard to speculate on the impact of his mother's criminal behavior," said Sobol, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Hilbert College.

"But it leaves us wondering whether he was attached to his mother," he said. "Perhaps the separation from his mother had a lingering psychological impact."

Amherst police arrived at the home of Vel Sedita at 7 p.m. Saturday, after family members were unsuccessful in attempts to contact her.

Inside 462 Kaymar, in the normally quiet Willow Ridge section of Amherst, officers found Sedita's body. Police said it appeared that the grandmother died of blunt-force trauma to her head.

LoTempio said that Saturday morning was supposed to be D'Andrea's first day at his new job at Dunkin' Donuts. Instead, Amherst police took him into custody that night and charged him with second-degree murder.

According to Amherst Town Court records, D'Andrea had been arrested three times before the slaying -- in November 2001, March 2003 and January 2005.

In all, he had been charged with seven violations -- five for harassment and one each for disorderly conduct and criminal possession of marijuana.

Neighbors said they saw D'Andrea and his grandmother had quarreled in the doorway of her home. Recently, she confided in one neighbor that she awoke one morning and her grandson was in her face, threatening to kill her.

Amherst police said they knew of a history of domestic issues between the woman and her grandson. Police said they responded to five calls at the house since 2004 -- all involving D'Andrea.

Still, neighbors say they are stunned by the allegation that D'Andrea had turned on his grandmother so violently.

"She loved him unconditionally," said a longtime friend and neighbor who asked not to be identified. "She was a wonderful person. Kind. Considerate. And she was always concerned about her children and her grandson, Richie."

LoTempio paints a very different picture. He said Sedita raised her two children -- D'Andrea's mother and her brother, Jason -- in a dysfunctional environment.

"A lot more was happening in that house that the neighbors don't know, and Dawn was a testament to that," LoTempio said. "I'm just saying: This was not a docile home being invaded."


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