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Mother gets plea deal in stabbing

A North Tonawanda woman who swathed her 28-year-old daughter's head in plastic wrap and stabbed her three times accepted a plea-bargain Tuesday in Niagara County Court.

Elizabeth N. Budziszewski, 50, of Robinson Street, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault. She had been indicted on an attempted murder charge.

Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza, who scheduled sentencing forDec. 2, agreed to impose a term of no more than five years in prison.

If convicted of attempted murder, Budziszewski could have received up to 25 years in prison. But Assistant District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said that she offered the plea to second-degree assault, which carries a seven-year maximum sentence, in light of Budziszewski's "mental issues."

Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said he could have entered a plea of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect, but that would have meant committing Budziszewski to a state mental institution with no guarantee she ever would be released. A prison term, on the other hand, has a definite end date.

"I didn't want a 'not responsible' because I don't trust the mental health system," Eoannou said. "I was not comfortable with the uncertainly of an out date."

The cases of defendants committed under these circumstances are reviewed after six, 12 and 24 months and annually thereafter, but they have no guarantee of ever getting out, Eoannou said.

Sperrazza saluted Eoannou's work, telling Budziszewski, "He's certainly advocated very zealously for you. . . . He's driving me crazy."

"I have had lengthy conversations with the district attorney myself," Eoannou said. "It's my understanding the people will not advocate for a specific sentence."

"The people will in essence defer to the victim," Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth R. Donatello said, referring to Marianna E. Schukraft.

Schukraft, who is expected to speak at the sentencing, was not in court Tuesday.

Wojtaszek said Schukraft was visiting her mother's home March 18 when the topic of Schukraft's upcoming trip to Phoenix arose.

Wojtaszek said Budziszewski offered to play a guessing game with Schukraft: If she could guess the denominations of money while blindfolded, Budziszewski would give her that cash to spend on her trip.

Schukraft agreed, but Budzi-szewski proceeded to tie her daughter's hands behind her back, wrap her face in plastic and stab her three times with a gutting knife.

Wojtaszek said the victim had two stab wounds in her upper back and one in the side, contrary to earlier reports that Schukraft had been stabbed in the chest.

"She was really lucky [the knife] didn't hit any organs," Wojtaszek said.

The stabbing occurred two days after Budziszewski reportedly had duct-taped Schukraft's two children.

"For the three weeks leading up to the crime, everyone in the family had noticed some change in her behavior," Wojtaszek said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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