A youth charged with second-degree murder in the stomping death of Gary Trzaska of Cheektowaga pleaded guilty today to first-degree manslaughter.
William Nance, 17, entered his plea as a third day of jury selection was getting under way in his trial before Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio. She told Nance he still faces a prison term of 20 to 25 years when he is sentenced Nov. 3. He had been spared a more serious charge of first-degree murder because he was 16 at the time.
With several members of Trzaska's family in the courtroom, Nance admitted that he and others took part in the killing but he did not publicly identify his accomplices.
None of Trzaska's relatives would comment today, but Sharon Simon, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said a member of the victim's family might make a statement to the judge during Nance's sentencing.
Trzaska, 41, was attacked Oct. 2 on Broadway near Titus Avenue after collecting rent from tenants of property he owned in the area. Although authorities and Trzaska's family initially thought Trzaska, who was gay and white, was the victim of a hate crime -- those accused of killing him are black -- investigators later concluded he was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Authorities have said they still were trying to pin down enough evidence to arrest at least one more person in the slaying.
After initially confessing to the crime, Nance recanted and had maintained for months that he had been wrongly accused of complicity in the slaying. But when DiTullio today asked him if he had killed Trzaska "aided by others," he replied, "Yes."
Dennis Straughter, 19, is scheduled to stand trial in January on a first-degree murder charge in Trzaska's death.
Thomas J. Eoannou, Straughter's attorney, has filed a series of pretrial motions challenging the charge. If convicted, Straughter, who has maintained that he was home baby-sitting with one of his own children when Trzaska was killed, faces a mandatory prison term of life without parole.