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Jeopardizing the prosecution's case, a key witness is refusing to testify against a suspect in the slaying of a North Buffalo woman who was shot to death two years ago.

Prosecutors say they may have to drop murder charges against James O. Young unless they can get Raymond Buckborough to testify against him.

The problem is that Buckborough lives in Ontario and refused this week to come to Buffalo to testify at Young's murder trial.

As a result, prosecutors took the unusual step Wednesday of asking the judge to halt the 2-week-old trial while they seek permission from Canadian legal officials to question Buckborough there.

Senior Erie County Judge Rose D. LaMendola gave prosecutors until Tuesday morning.

If they do, prosecutors would question Buckborough in Fort Erie, Ont., in the presence of Young's attorney, who would be able to cross-examine the witness. The testimony would then be read to the jury in Buffalo.

Young, 24, of Glendale Avenue is on trial in the slaying of Marcia Himbury, 48, in her Carmel Road home in May 1992.

Police said Mrs. Himbury was lying on the living room couch when three men looking for her son, Richard, 22, who reportedly was involved with drugs, burst through her kitchen door and shot her in the chest.

Young also faces another trial in the Oct. 21, 1986, slaying of Clement R. "Bus" Jordan, 86, during a break-in at the victim's Glendale Place home.

Prosecutor Thomas P. Franczyk said Buckborough, 24, of Niagara Falls, Ont., contends that while he and Young were inmates in Niagara County Jail in Lockport in January 1993, Young told him about the Himbury and the Jordan murders.

Mary Kosmerl, Young's attorney, said her client only told Buckborough that authorities had questioned him about both Buffalo killings.

Franczyk said Buckborough contends that he is "reliving a nightmare" about his alleged mistreatment by authorities in Niagara County Jail last year.

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