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A state appeals court will hold a hearing next month on whether homicide charges should be dismissed against a Buffalo murder suspect because the key witness in the case -- his wife -- vanished during his trial last March, court officials said Thursday.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester will consider Richard Scott's claim that prosecutors illegally want to try him a second time for a 1989 slaying because they failed to keep track of his wife after he was jailed last year.

Leigh E. Anderson, Scott's attorney, said Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico was wrong in declaring a mistrial April 3 when prosecutors came back to him after a three-day halt in the trial and said they couldn't find Scott's wife, Kim Blackmon.

Over the objections of prosecutors, Appellate Justice Samuel L. Green ordered proceedings in the case before the full Rochester court Jan. 9.

Ms. Anderson said she also will ask D'Amico to adjourn Scott's retrial, now set to begin with jury selection Jan. 7.

Erie County District Attorney Kevin M. Dillon said Scott, 30, "manufactured" the disappearance of his wife after prosecutors subpoenaed her to testify against him.

"We have certain leads at this time which may enable us to locate her" before the Jan. 7 retrial, Dillon said.

Ms. Blackmon, 29, is the key witness in the fatal shooting on July 6, 1989, of Arlene Martin, 32, in the victim's Oberlin Street flat.

Scott, of Goodyear Avenue, is accused of shooting Ms. Martin in the face with a 12-gauge shotgun after an argument. He surrendered four days after the murder and has been in custody since then.

In August, he was convicted of drug charges in an unrelated case and was sentenced by D'Amico to a prison term of 8 1/3 to 25 years.

Dillon said his office is convinced Scott "had something to do" with his wife's disappearance. And he added that when Ms. Blackmon is found, "she faces certain sanctions" for violating the subpoena.

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