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Little evidence in killing puts issue of cause in forefront

There were tips from the community, a blood trail and a video that led police to arrest a Niagara Falls man in a city shooting death March 20.

But Monday, as attorneys debated probable cause in Niagara County Court, prosecutors said they had no gun, no matching bullets, no recovered jewelry.

A defense lawyer also called a surveillance video and search warrants into question.

Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza warned Assistant District Attorney Brian D. Seaman that after looking at all the evidence, she might be in agreement that there was no probable cause to charge Darnell D. Carter.

But she did say that witness testimony could be a key factor in changing that.

Carter, 22, of 12th Street, has pleaded not guilty to a six-count indictment charging him in the fatal shooting of landlord Robert R. Biggs, 30, during a robbery in front of Hometown Market on Pierce Avenue in the Falls.

Three or four other men are believed to have been involved, but Carter is the only one currently charged. He is believed to be the gunman in the crime, according to police.

Seaman told Sperrazza that the evidence shows there is a blood trail that led to Hometown Market and video surveillance that clearly shows Carter moving around with a scarf covering part of his face.

"We will show that he was there that night with a gun and at the Hometown Market at the moment when the shots were fired," Seaman said.

He told Sperrazza that the blood trail and witness statements would be used in the case.

But Sperrazza said that the court papers said nothing about witness statements and only mentioned a blood trail and video.

"If there are witness statements, I need to know about that," the judge said.

Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer also said he had not been made aware of witness statements.

Seaman said she would need to see the statements to determine their admissibility, and would then decide whether the defense would have access to any of them.

Sperrazza reserved decision on admissibility of the video.

"It's not a video of a crime. It's a video of a group of people in a store before a crime," Sperrazza said.

Privateer also objected to a search warrant, saying that there was no descriptions of what types of clothing, jewelry and weapons were being seized. Sperrazza said that it was "thin for a homicide, but sufficient."

The public defender said he was also "very much in the dark about what my client supposedly did. Is he principal accomplice or [not]?"

But Seaman said the indictment itself lays out the charges in enough detail for the defense to prepare its case.

Seaman also said the jewelry that was supposedly stolen on the night of the robbery has not been recovered.

A follow-up to Monday's hearing will be held Sept. 28. Seaman said that they still are awaiting DNA results and that the court moved a pretrial date to Oct. 19. A trial date of Nov. 30 was tentatively set.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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