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One defendant admits, one denies role in fatal beating

Charles J. Maggadino, one of five defendants in what prosecutors say was a mistaken-identity murder, admitted to police that he was involved in the attack, according to testimony Thursday in Niagara County Court.

But David F. Kennerknecht, another defendant, denied taking part, Niagara Falls Chief of Detectives Capt. Ernest Palmer testified in a hearing to determine whether the statements made by the suspects to police will be admissible at their trial.

The five are charged with murder and gang assault in the beating death of Nicholas A. Kwasniewski, 23, of Lancaster, who was attacked June 4 in the front yard of a home on 19th Street in Niagara Falls. He died the next day.

Charged are Shane W. Craft, 19, Paul R. Dawson, 20, and Kennerknecht, 23, of the Town of Niagara, and Maggadino, 25, and James A. Reed Jr., 18, of Niagara Falls.

Prosecutors say Craft wanted to attack Nicholas Payne, whom Craft accused of beating him with a lead pipe and robbing him March 31 in the Town of Niagara. Payne has never been charged in that alleged incident.

Palmer testified that Maggadino told him in a June 7 interview that the five defendants were at Reed's house on Rhode Island Avenue when Craft received a phone call from Amanda Farrell, Craft's girlfriend and a key prosecution witness.

Palmer said Maggadino stated that after hanging up the phone, Craft said, "Let's go," and the five men piled into Craft's gray Cadillac. They parked on 19th Street near Pine Avenue, walked to Farrell's house and then to the home where the crime occurred.

"They got to the front of the house, and there was a male in the front yard," Palmer said. "[Maggadino] said Shane yelled 'Hey,' jumped the fence and began punching the male in the head and body. [Maggadino] joined the fray. At some point he got hit in the nose and just started swinging. He wasn't sure who hit him. He might have hit the victim; he wasn't sure."


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