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JURY REJECTS SELF-DEFENSE CLAIM, CONVICTS GARRASI

Salvatore Garrasi III is headed to prison, probably for the rest of his life.

A jury deliberated about 2 1/2 hours Wednesday before finding Garrasi guilty of second-degree murder and other charges in the 1998 stabbing death of his wife, Jeannette.

The murder happened in the same Auburn Avenue home where Garrasi had killed his son 15 years earlier.

Garrasi, 61, sat calmly as the verdict was read before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma. After the verdict, Jeanine Garrasi, 24, the defendant's estranged daughter, left court without comment. But two of Garrasi's three brothers, Fred and David, and Fred's children, Jennifer and Michael, complained about the verdict.

In announcing the verdict, the jury forewoman said the panel unanimously found Garrasi criminally responsible for the murder and rejected his claim that he killed his wife in self-defense after she attacked him with a knife.

Garrasi is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who spent eight years in psychiatric hospitals after being found not responsible by reason of mental disease in the murder of his son. He stopped taking medication that controlled his condition about a year before he killed his wife.

Defense lawyer John R. Nuchereno, who had argued that his client was emotionally out of control when he committed the crime, said he would appeal the verdict.

"The irony of this case is that Sal would rather spend 25 years in prison then go back for mental treatment," Nuchereno said. "That's the sad thing."

Forma delayed sentencing indefinitely but scheduled a Feb. 24 hearing on defense motions challenging the verdict. Prosecutor Joseph Mordino said he will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to recommend that Garrasi be sentenced to the maximum prison term of 25 years to life. He faces a minimum of 15 years.

For Garrasi, going to trial was a gamble that did not pay off. During a Jan. 6 pretrial session, Nuchereno had urged him to accept a plea deal on a first-degree manslaughter charge, whereby he would claim he was emotionally out of control during the stabbing.

Garrasi would have been permanently housed in a prison psychiatric ward, but he rejected the offer.

Garrasi testified during the trial that he did not feel guilty about killing his wife, saying it was done in self-defense.

Mordino had told the jury Garrasi was "an irritable, angry man who always blamed others for his problems" and killed a wife who was so afraid of him she had been sleeping in the attic with a shotgun before she was killed.

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