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Woman pleads to manslaughter in beating death of Cheektowaga businessman

A woman who fatally beat a Cheektowaga businessman at his Princess Drive home in November pleaded guilty Thursday morning to first-degree manslaughter.

Debra Haynes-Thomas,48, of Cazenovia Street admitted that she killed Peter G. Wiepert, 56, on Nov. 14 at his home after the couple had an argument. According to prosecutors, Wiepert was asleep when Haynes-Thomas hit him in the head with a heavy ceramic statue, causing fatal brain injuries.

Police who went to the home to check on Wiepert’s welfare found that all the burners on the gas stove were opened and a lit candle was nearby on a kitchen counter. They opened windows and then searched the house, eventually finding Wiepert’s body covered with pillows and blankets on his bed.

Haynes-Thomas was found a day after the attack by Monroe County sheriff’s deputies, who were called to a hotel near Rochester because a woman there reportedly had tried to harm herself. The deputies took her to Strong Memorial Hospital for treatment and an evaluation.

She was arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder four days later.

The court also ordered a psychiatric evaluation. Prosecutor Michael P. Felicetta told the court Thursday that two doctors had deemed Haynes-Thomas competent to stand trial.

Instead, Haynes-Thomas pleaded guilty to the lesser included charge of first-degree manslaughter, which has a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. A murder conviction could bring a sentence of 25 years to life.

State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia told Haynes-Thomas that, contingent on the results of a presentencing investigation, he would commit to a sentencing range of 20 to 22½ years.

Felicetta said the District Attorney’s Office consulted with the victim’s family and they had approved of the plea arrangement.

Haynes-Thomas is a citizen of Trinidad and will be deported when she is released from prison. She returns to court for sentencing May 25.