Toys R Us murder suspect wants statements to police suppressed - The Buffalo News
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Toys R Us murder suspect wants statements to police suppressed

The accused killer of a Hamburg Toys R Us assistant manager wants to prevent prosecutors from using his statements to police at trial.

Frank Housh, the defense lawyer for Bernard T. “Bernie” Grucza, said today he will ask State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang to suppress Grucza’s statements at the April 1 murder trial.

He said police took the statements from Grucza without a lawyer present during their investigation, even though police knew that Grucza had another lawyer representing him at the time in a misdemeanor weapons case in Elma Town Court.

He said the statements were neither a confession nor incriminating but are inadmissible because they were taken without a lawyer present.

Housh made the comments outside a Buffalo courtroom after the judge met with Housh and James F. Bargnesi, chief of the Homicide Bureau in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, and Assistant District Attorney Gary W. Hackbush in a pretrial conference.

The judge set Feb. 26 for the suppression hearing.

Grucza, 38, formerly of Elma, is charged with fatally stabbing co-worker Laurence C. “Larry” Wells II on the morning of June 29 before the store at 3464 McKinley Parkway opened.

Grucza, a former regional loss prevention manager for the toy store chain, was indicted Oct. 21 by an Erie County grand jury and remains held without bail in the Erie County Holding Center. The indictment came a few days after he was arrested in the slaying.

Grucza allegedly used a key to gain access to the building at McKinley and Milestrip Road with what police believed was the intention to steal cash or merchandise. He encountered Wells and fatally stabbed him, according to police.

Grucza’s DNA was allegedly on a hat found in the store office where Wells’ body was found.

Housh said he has not yet been allowed to examine the hat. He said he believes DNA from other people can also be found on the hat. He said it would not be unusual for Grucza’s DNA to be on it, since he had worked at the store for years.

Before the judge announced the suppression hearing date and the trial date at today’s hearing, she heard Housh’s objection to allowing TV cameras in the courtroom, where Grucza was present.

Housh said that when cameras were allowed in the courtroom in November for his client’s arraignment, they focused on Grucza’s handcuffed hands. He said that image reinforced the fact that his client was in custody. He called the coverage prejudicial to Grucza, which will make it hard to pick an impartial jury and possibly lead to a motion for a change of venue.

The judge denied the request to ban the cameras from the courtroom, saying it was an open proceeding. She said the cameramen were asked not to concentrate of the defendant’s handcuffs.


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