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BLASDELL MAN ACCUSED OF MURDER MAY PLEAD GUILTY

A Blasdell man accused of throwing a log that killed a Buffalo woman in Zoar Valley is considering pleading to criminally negligent homicide Tuesday in Cattaraugus County Court.

Paul D. Fraccia, 19, of Blasdell may enter the plea, according to attorney John Elmore of Buffalo. Discussions are planned with Judge Larry M. Himelein and District Attorney Michael P. Nevins.

Fraccia, who has no previous criminal record, could be sentenced to a minimum term of probation or a maximum sentence of up to four years in a state prison.

The charge is the result of an incident June 16 during which Amanda Occhino, 22, of Ashland Avenue was struck in the head with a log.

The woman was with friends at the bottom of a gorge at Zoar Valley near the Deer Lick Falls section of Cattaraugus Creek when a log weighing about 95 pounds fell about 110 feet and struck her in the head, Nevins said. Nevins described the log as 22 inches long and 16 inches in diameter.

Ms. Occhino was struck about 4:20 p.m. and taken by Mercy Flight to Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda and later transferred to Erie County Medical Center. She died June 23 in the center.

Several of Fraccia's friends told state police people down below in the gorge called to him to stop throwing things but police believe he heard and disregarded the request to stop, Elmore said Friday.

"It was not intended and he was not aware she was there," Elmore said. "He later ran down to assist and give her first aid and talked to the police about his involvement."

Zoar Valley is frequently visited by young people from the Buffalo area who go there to swim, drink and throw rocks down the gorge, Elmore said.

Fraccia may have been drinking before the incident, Nevins said, but he was not tested for alcohol.

"The entire incident has been very traumatic for Paul," Elmore said, "and his family has expressed remorse to the police. He comes from a hard-working middle class family with good, respectable kids."

Ms. Occhino's family has expressed satisfaction with the plea offer.

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