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BID FOR NEW LAWYER DELAYS SENTENCING

LOCKPORT -- Sentencing for Michael D. Haffizulla, who pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to killing his 7-week-old son in his Niagara Falls home on July 18, 2001, was delayed until next week after he told Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza he wants a new attorney.

Sperrazza said she would grant the request despite Haffizulla's telling the court on Sept. 6 that he had been pleased with his lawyer, Angelo Musitano of Niagara Falls.

District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III objected, saying the suspect was "manipulating the court" to "delay the inevitable."

Sperrazza said she would sentence Haffizulla on his guilty pleas to second-degree manslaughter and second-degree possession of marijuana prior to Thanksgiving. He faces a maximum sentence of 7 1/2 to 22 years in state prison.

She said she would base sentencing on Haffizulla's Sept. 6 court statement that while smoking marijuana he tripped and fell down a staircase while holding the baby. He said he found the infant dead in his bed the next morning.

Fatima opens Festival of Lights today

LEWISTON -- Our Lady of Fatima Shrine will open its Festival of Lights today with a blessing of the giant Nativity scene after the 4 p.m. Mass in the basilica, 1023 Swann Road, just off Route 18.

Hours will be 5 to 9 p.m. daily through Jan. 5. Admission is free.

The Rev. Julio Ciavaglia, rector of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine and the designer of the illuminated decorations, said he hopes that "the festival will inspire all to look at the spiritual roots of our Christmas season and find in it Jesus, the true source of joy and peace."

The festival offers dozens of lighted displays, including Joseph and Mary on their way to Bethlehem, the Ten Commandments, and a Nativity scene with some figures that are over 9 feet tall. Santa Claus is there, too, but as the more correctly religious form of St. Nicholas, bishop of Asia Minor in the fourth century.

This year a new display, "The Mystery of the Rosary," will feature each of the 20 mysteries shown in illuminated 8-by-4-foot cases. New mysteries were added to honor Pope John Paul II's announcement of a year dedicated to the rosary and his addition of the Five Mysteries of Light.

Police investigate 3 armed robberies

NIAGARA FALLS -- Detectives are investigating the armed robberies of a cabdriver, a pizza deliveryman and a gas station over the past two days.

Friday, three men took a LaSalle taxi from Portage Road to Ninth Street and then robbed cabdriver Joseph M. Redmond of $120 at gunpoint.

Thursday, a man armed with a revolver robbed Frenchy's Pizza deliveryman Todd R. Martin of $80 on Ninth Street.

About two hours earlier, a man stole $225 to $390 from Knoll's Mobile Niagara, 8721 Niagara Falls Blvd., at knifepoint.

Man pleads guilty to harming child

NIAGARA FALLS -- A Haeberle Avenue man accused of badly beating a 3-year-old girl Nov. 14 pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of endangering the welfare of a child Friday in City Court.

Michael C. Schneider, 22, entered the plea in satisfaction of the felony assault charge lodged against him Nov. 20.

City Court Judge Robert M. Restaino set sentencing for Dec. 23 and remanded Schneider to the Niagara County Jail in lieu of $1,500 bail.

Schneider was accused of striking his live-in girlfriend's daughter numerous times, police said.

Webmasters plan Falls food drive

NIAGARA FALLS -- The operators of a community Web site have organized a food drive starting Sunday to benefit the Food Bank of Western New York.

Christian and Steve Fisher, co-founders of AmericanFalls.net, announced that canned goods can be dropped off at either of the two Arby's locations in Niagara Falls, on Niagara Falls Boulevard and Cedar Avenue, or at Honeymoon Capital Souvenirs on Rainbow Boulevard.

Collections will also take place at 79th Street School after Thanksgiving recess.

In addition, the Fishers will be donating a canned food item for every $10 spent online at stores linked to their Web site.

The drive ends Christmas Eve, and all food collected will be distributed to families in Niagara Falls, Christian Fisher said.

Guitar stolen from Corinthia St. home

LOCKPORT -- A $3,000 guitar was stolen sometime Wednesday during a break-in at the home of a Corinthia Street man, Officer Paul Zapp said Friday.

Craig Leyh reported the burglary at 9 p.m. Thursday when he noticed the guitar and an $80 radio missing. Someone got in by breaking a basement window, Zapp said.

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