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Retrial set after court overturns conviction

LOCKPORT -- An Oct. 29 retrial date was set Tuesday for Ryan S. Smith, the Niagara Falls man whose conviction in connection with two home invasions and a gas station robbery was overturned because DNA evidence was obtained by zapping him with a Taser.

Joseph Terranova, of Buffalo, accepted an appointment to serve as Smith's defense attorney. Smith was represented by Patrick M. Balkin, of Lockport, in his first trial in 2009. Smith, 24, was convicted on 24 counts stemming from crimes that occurred in 2006.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled, 4-1, in March that Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas should not have permitted the use of the DNA evidence obtained by Niagara Falls police, who fired a 50,000-volt electric stun gun at the handcuffed Smith when he refused to open his mouth for a DNA swab.


Falls taxi driver robbed at gunpoint

NIAGARA FALLS -- A female taxi driver was robbed at gunpoint after she picked up a fare in the 400 block of 22nd Street just after 1 a.m. Monday.

The driver told police that when she arrived on 22nd Street, two men in their 20s, both wearing hoodies, jumped into the cab and had her drive them to an address in the 400 block of 26th Street. She said the man behind her then put a gun to her head and demanded all her money.

She said she handed over $50 from her pants pocket and also was ordered to hand over her cellphone. Both men then fled.

Police said the armed robbery was similar to a taxi driver robbery a week ago, also in the 400 block of 26th Street.


Parks Police probe reports of person going over falls

NIAGARA FALLS -- State Parks Police are investigating reports from several people who said they saw a person go over the falls Tuesday morning.

State Parks Police Maj. David Page said the reports came in at 11:30 a.m. from a number of witnesses at Prospect Point in Niagara Falls State Park. He said witness reports were varied, so it is not certain if the person was a man or a woman.

"We received a call of a person in the water right above the brink of the [American Falls] at Prospect Point," Page said. "We've taken reports from several witnesses, and right now we are investigating."

Page said police have not received any reports of how the person got into the water.

"The reports we received were of watching a person in the water, at the brink of the falls, go over the falls," Page said.

The investigation continued late Tuesday.


Woman riding in vehicle is knifed by attacker

NIAGARA FALLS -- A 20-year-old woman was injured in a knife attack just before 5 p.m. Monday on Hyde Park Boulevard at Walnut Avenue.

The victim told city police that she was a passenger in a vehicle that had stopped for a red light when a woman she knows got out of her car, opened the passenger door and started striking her. She said the woman then pulled out a folding knife and cut her on her arms.

The driver told police that another person tried to open her door and fight, but she able to break free and was not injured.

The victim, whose name was not released, refused treatment.

A knife was taken into evidence at the scene, police said.


Two men plead guilty in separate DWI cases

LOCKPORT -- Two men pleaded guilty to felony driving while intoxicated in separate Niagara County Court cases last week.

Scott D. Boci, 46, of East Avenue, Lockport, was arrested Dec. 13 near his home, and police measured his blood-alcohol content at 0.27 percent. Judge Matthew J. Murphy III scheduled sentencing for June 28.

John A. Jacobs Sr., 50, of Sy Road, Wheatfield, was arrested April 7 on Burch Road in Wilson, where sheriff's deputies measured his blood-alcohol level at 0.20 percent. Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas set sentencing for Aug. 9, after Jacobs undergoes some scheduled back surgery.


Man, 54, arraigned in 1994 murder

A 54-year-old man was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he murdered a woman whose body was found stuffed inside a nightstand in a backyard in 1994.

James Fountain faces second-degree murder charges in the stabbing death of 29-year-old Cynthia Epps, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

Fountain faces up to 25 years to life if convicted.

The body of Epps, of Colfax Street, was found in the nightstand by the upstairs tenant at 142 Montana St., who noticed the nightstand in his backyard at about 9 a.m. June 30, 1994, and went outside to investigate, police said at the time. The body was wrapped in a green blanket.

Epps apparently died from several stab wounds to her upper body, police said then.