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No change in conditions for Falls shooting victims

NIAGARA FALLS -- Conditions remained unchanged Monday for a police officer and two others involved in a domestic-related shooting early Saturday that left a city woman in critical condition.

Niagara Falls Police Officer Walter R. Nichols Jr. remained in serious condition in the intensive care unit of Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, after undergoing several hours of surgery Saturday to remove shotgun pellets that had lodged near his heart, stomach and left hand.

Officer Michael D. Bird, who was hit with shotgun pellets in the face, was treated in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and released Saturday.

The two officers were shot while responding to a domestic violence call at a South Avenue residence. When they arrived, they found that Stephanie C. Turk, 27, had been stabbed and shot by the father of her two children, Adam J. Hamilton, 34, police said.

Hamilton, armed with both a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle, then fired three dozen to four dozen rounds at the officers for several minutes, police said.

All of those hurt were first taken to Falls Memorial Medical Center, and all but Bird were later transferred to ECMC.

Turk remained in critical condition Monday in ECMC's intensive care unit.

Hamilton suffered three gunshot wounds to his lower extremities and was in fair condition, under 24-hour guard by Niagara Falls police officers. He was arraigned Monday and faces two counts of first-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree attempted murder, according to authorities.


Prosecution rests case in murder trial of two

LOCKPORT -- The prosecution rested its case in the Paul A. Osborne Jr.-Brandon Dennis murder trial Monday after introducing DNA evidence that placed Osborne at the scene of the slaying of Donald J. Paige Jr.

Osborne, 22, and Dennis, 23, both of Buffalo, are on trial in Niagara County Court on murder and other charges stemming from the Aug. 23, 2007, shooting death of Paige in the driveway of his Niagara Falls home.

K. Paul Meyers, of the Niagara County forensic laboratory, testified that a DNA sample taken from the finger of Paige's father, who was bitten on the finger while trying to help his son, showed Osborne's DNA mingled with the father's.

Also, a San Diego Padres baseball cap found at the scene carried Osborne's DNA, Meyers said.

Testimony last week included the introduction of evidence showing Osborne's fingerprints on the side of Paige's sport utility vehicle, which was in the driveway.

The prosecution finished its case with testimony from two State Police investigators who discussed the search for Dennis, including an account by one of the officers of seeing the two defendants together in Buffalo on the day of the slaying.

Dennis was placed at the scene in testimony by eyewitness Victor L. Bullard, who last week testified that one of the assailants, who robbed him at gunpoint before Paige exited the house, was missing his upper left front tooth.

A photo of Dennis, taken last month, shows that tooth is indeed missing.


Guilty plea entered to cocaine possession

LOCKPORT -- A Niagara Falls man could be sentenced to as long as 5 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty Monday in Niagara County Court to possessing 1.41 ounces of cocaine last year.

Jason R. Palmer, 23, of Devlin Avenue, admitted to fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Judge Matthew J. Murphy III scheduled sentencing for April 23.

Defense attorney James J. Faso said he advised Palmer to plead guilty after Murphy last week refused a defense motion to suppress the drug evidence police found in Palmer's car after a traffic stop on 71st Street in Niagara Falls on Feb. 28.


Shop owner pleads guilty to $124,000 tax violation

Steven Dvorak Jr., the operator of a well-known Amherst smoke shop, pleaded guilty Monday to criminally withholding more than $124,000 in state sales and tobacco tax receipts, prosecutors said.

Dvorak, 63, operator of the Tinder Box at 8212 Transit Road, turned over a check for an initial repayment of $20,000. Afterward, State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns told Dvorak he will place him on probation provided Dvorak pays an additional $5,000 before his scheduled April 30 sentencing.

Dvorak, who was allowed to remain free on his own recognizance, pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny under the state penal law and felony cigarette and tobacco product tax evasion under the state's tax law.

Prosecutor Susan H. Sadinsky said Dvorak, who has operated the Tinder Box since 1995, also signed confessions of judgment obligating him to repay an additional $30,701 to the state for sales tax receipts and $68,456 for tobacco taxes he withheld between March 1, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2007.

Sadinsky said routine audits of Dvorak's business by the state Department of Taxation and Finance led to the criminal case.

Dvorak, of Whispering Court, East Amherst, could not be reached to comment after the plea proceeding.

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