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TEEN DIES OF GUNSHOT TO BACK OF HEAD FALLS YOUTH IS FOUND IN CAR AT UNITY PARK

A Niagara Falls teen-ager died early Sunday after being shot in the back of the head.

Tonio Bennett, 18, of 1513 Michigan Ave., died in Memorial Medical Center at 4:12 a.m. after he was found unconscious in his car in a parking lot at the Unity Park housing facility.

Bennett was found about 3:30 a.m. by a man police described as a friend of the victim. They would not release the friend's name.

Capt. Louis Curcione, head of the homicide unit, said Bennett was "slumped toward the passenger side but apparently had been driving the car." It was not determined how long Bennett had been in the car, police said.

Police interviewed residents of Unity Park on Sunday, hoping to establish clues in the shooting, but "no one heard or saw anything unusual in the area where the car was located," Curcione said.

Detective Carl Berak said police were tracing Bennett's steps before the shooting.

Niagara County Coroner James Joyce scheduled an autopsy for today at Memorial Medical Center. He said the victim apparently had been shot once in the back of the head.

The vehicle was registered to Bennett's grandmother, Corine Houston of Niagara Falls, police said. The car, a 1985 Nissan, was impounded.

Ms. Houston said Bennett lived with his mother, Claria Edwards. He had been scheduled to graduate from high school Saturday but was short of credits and was planning to attend summer school, his grandmother said.

Bennett was arrested March 10 at Highland and Fairfield avenues and charged with third-degree possession of a controlled substance, a felony, police said. Bail was set at $5,000, which was posted March 12. It was not known if the case was pending.

Ms. Houston said Bennett was the nephew of Vivian Houston, the victim of a murder-suicide June 7 in an apartment on Linwood Avenue in Buffalo. Jerry Carter and Vivian Houston, both 35 and both workers at the Harrison Radiator Division of General Motors Corp., were found dead in the two-bedroom apartment.

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