Joseph M. Mordino, longtime Erie County prosecutor - The Buffalo News
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Joseph M. Mordino, longtime Erie County prosecutor

March 6, 1943 – Dec. 6, 2013

Joseph M. Mordino, who successfully prosecuted about 250 murderers in a 38-year career in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, died Friday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a long illness. He was 70.

“He had to be among the two or three longest-serving assistant district attorneys in the history of Erie County,” said Mr. Mordino’s former colleague and boss, former District Attorney Frank J. Clark III.

Mr. Mordino, a Clarence resident at the time of his death, joined the District Attorney’s Office right after earning his law degree from the University at Buffalo Law School in 1969. At various times, he served as chief of the Narcotics Bureau, chief of the Felony Crimes Bureau and deputy district attorney before retiring in 2007.

He then entered private practice, but came out of retirement to serve as a special prosecutor in Niagara County in 2008, convicting Richard W. Matt for the 1997 killing and dismemberment of a North Tonawanda businessman.

It was just one of many grisly and high-profile cases Mr. Mordino handled successfully.

“He took on the heavy load,” Clark said. “Some people would duck the tough cases. Joe was never one to duck the tough cases.”

One such was the case of Ishmael Saladeen, convicted of a 1982 Allentown murder 18 years later through the use of DNA analysis that wasn’t available at the time of the crime.

“My dad got the DNA,” said Joseph T. Mordino, Mr. Mordino’s son, who also is an attorney.

“He was a lawyer’s lawyer, a consummate professional. He was always prepared,” Clark said. “For the people he supervised, I think they had a great deal of respect for him. And they should have. He was a real pro.”

“He really hated guys who killed cops and guys who killed kids,” the younger Mordino recalled.

There was another side to Mr. Mordino, though. He coached kids’ softball, served as leader of Cub Scout Troop 554 at St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Depew for many years and enjoyed cooking Italian food for large groups of friends.

“We always had homemade ravioli the day after Christmas,” his son recalled. “He rolled them out by hand and stamped them out by hand until we got some modern equipment. I think everybody who ever had dinner here had his sauce and meatballs.”

He also enjoyed working with his hands as a gardener and craftsman.

“He was a guy who was at his best when you were at your lowest point,” his son said.

Mr. Mordino was born in Buffalo and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at LeMoyne College.

Besides his son, survivors include his wife of 44 years, the former Kathleen Kruk; four daughters, Danielle, Mary Graesser, Angela Bedford and Danielle; a brother, Anthony; and three sisters, Marlene Faxlanger, Linda Wnuk and Barbara.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Mary Catholic Church, 6919 Transit Road, Swormville.

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