A Buffalo homicide detective admitted Tuesday that he lied when he told a murder suspect that his neighbors’ surveillance cameras showed him throwing a man off the second-floor porch last year in South Buffalo.
Detective Salvatore Valvo said his statement to Nicholas J. Finnegan was not true, adding that police had no evidence showing Finnegan on the porch of his Kenefick Avenue apartment on Nov. 8 with the victim, Russ A. Ross.
“I wanted to see his reaction” to the statement, Valvo told Jessica Kulpit, one of Finnegan’s attorneys.
“He never said he threw him off the porch?” Kulpit asked.
“That’s correct,” Valvo said.
The detective also testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Gary W. Hackbush that Finnegan told him that he didn’t believe Valvo when he mentioned the surveillance cameras and what they showed.
Valvo said Finnegan also told him earlier in the Dec. 5 interview that he couldn’t wait until the case went to trial and that police had no witnesses.
“He was pretty angry,” the detective said.
The interview at Buffalo Police Headquarters came after Valvo and two other homicide detectives picked Finnegan up at his mother’s home on Seneca Street and brought him in for questioning.
It came five days after another interview at headquarters. After the Dec. 5 interview, Finnegan was arrested on murder charges.
Valvo and another homicide detective, Christopher Sterlace, testified about the interviews during a pretrial hearing before Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk on a defense motion to suppress Finnegan’s statements to police. The hearing will continue Friday.
Franczyk is expected to rule on the motion before Aug. 11 when the trial is scheduled to begin.
Finnegan, 26, is accused of pushing or throwing Ross, 28, of East Delavan Avenue, off the porch about 3:30 a.m. Nov. 8. Ross died 12 days later at Erie County Medical Center.
Finnegan pleaded not guilty at his Dec. 20 arraignment and is being held without bail.
Valvo testified that during his first interview Finnegan Nov. 30, police wanted to search his residence, which was equipped with a surveillance camera on the porch, to see if there was any video of the Nov. 8 incident.
He said he asked Finnegan if there was any such video, and Finnegan denied having any video equipment.
When Valvo told him police and some witnesses had seen the porch camera, he said the defendant called them liars. When Valvo showed him a photo of the camera on the defendant’s cellphone, he said Finnegan told him he must be lying.
Valvo said Finnegan later consented to a search of his residence, and the detective and Sterlace went to the apartment where they retrieved the camera. He said they returned to headquarters and took a statement from Finnegan.
After the statement was completed, Valvo said another detective read it to Finnegan, because the defendant had indicated he could read only a little bit and had not finished school.
Finnegan signed the statement more than six hours after he had come downtown for questioning. He then returned home.