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John M. Tomaino, accused of second-degree murder in the 1990 shooting death of his wife, Linda, told investigators "a pack of lies" to make them think she had committed suicide, a prosecutor said Monday in State Supreme Court.

A defense lawyer contended, however, that "Mr. Tomaino didn't do it."

Their comments came during oral arguments on a series of pretrial motions before Justice Christopher J. Burns, who is scheduled to preside at the trial beginning in April.

Tomaino was convicted in September 1996 of second-degree murder in his wife's death, and he was sentenced in January 1997 to 20 years to life in prison. But the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court overturned the conviction last March, and Tomaino was set free after having served about a year in Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

A different grand jury indicted him in July for the second time, and he pleaded innocent and was relased in $50,000 bail to await another trial.

Tomaino's attorney, Paul J. Cambria Jr. of Buffalo, argued several motions Monday regarding the handling of evidence in the case, investigative procedures, the admissibility of evidence, a statement made by the defendant, and other procedural matters.

Frank A. Sedita III, chief of the Erie County district attorney's special investigations and prosecutions unit, said in answer to one of Cambria's motions that "Whoever killed Linda Tomaino tried to make it look like a suicide.

"The defendant indicated to neighbors, relatives and the police that it was a suicide. What the defendant said was a pack of lies."

The case is being tried by Erie County prosecutors because Tomaino was a client of Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III when Murphy had a private law practice, leading him to disqualify his office from the case.

Roger W. Wilcox Jr., an attorney who is helping Cambria in the defense, said during a discussion of the evidence that "The defense position is that Mr. Tomaino didn't do it." Cambria has moved to dismiss the indictment.

Tomaino said he found his 37-year-old wife sprawled across the bed Nov. 18, 1990, in their home on Town Line Road, Wheatfield. She had been shot in the back of the head with a .45-caliber pistol, which was found in her lap. It was less than two weeks before the couple's bitter divorce was to have become final, ending their 17-year marriage.

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