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'Person of interest' in Carolina has Buffalo past

The Charlotte, N.C., man identified as a "person of interest" in the shooting death of his adopted teenage sister is a former Buffalo man with a criminal history who was acquitted of an intentional killing here three years ago.

Royce A. Mitchell, 36, a former Bennett High School football star and semiprofessional football player in Western New York, turned himself in Monday afternoon to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

Mitchell has been labeled by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police as a "person of interest" in Monday morning's shooting death of Tiffany Wright, 15, police have confirmed.

Tiffany, who was eight months pregnant and living in a foster home, was shot Monday morning as she waited for a school bus. Doctors were able to deliver her baby girl before she died in the hospital, but the baby was listed in critical condition.

Following Tiffany's death, police obtained warrants accusing Mitchell of statutory rape and indecent liberties with a minor.

"The victim in both those cases was Tiffany Wright," Rob Tufano, a spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, said Tuesday. Authorities have said Tiffany had been adopted into the Mitchell family.

Mitchell has been questioned in Tiffany's killing and held on no bail on the rape and indecent liberties charges, police said.

Tufano was asked whether authorities believe that Mitchell was the father of Tiffany's baby. "We do not know that for sure, but I suspect that will be part of the investigation," he said.

Three years ago, The Buffalo News reported that Mitchell had been acquitted in a federal court case involving a drug-related killing.

A federal jury in March 2006 acquitted Mitchell, then 32, in the November 1998 slaying of Gary Foster, 25, of Mills Street. Foster was shot repeatedly in an ambush outside Burchfield's bar on Main Street at Glenwood Avenue.

Mitchell was acquitted of committing an intentional killing while engaged in drug activities, among other charges.

During the trial, Mitchell's attorneys raised numerous questions about the credibility of government witnesses who identified him as the killer.

When he was indicted in the killing in 2003, Mitchell already was in federal prison, serving a a 70-month term for conspiring to distribute cocaine.

Before his homicide trial here, prosecutors said he could face an additional mandatory 30-year prison term if convicted of all charges from the 1998 shooting death.

Police have said that five years before the 1998 killing, in December 1993, Mitchell was the victim of a violent kidnapping and beating in Buffalo. They said he was handcuffed, burned and beaten with an ax handle by men who held him in a vacant East Side house, seeking $30,000 ransom.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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