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Dismissal of 2 murder counts urged in counselor death

A defense attorney tried to get some of the murder charges dismissed Wednesday in the June 8 bludgeoning death of Renee C. Greco while she worked as a youth counselor in a group home in Lockport.

Meanwhile, a prosecutor derided a defense effort to use a mental health defense, calling it "woefully deficient."

E. Earl Key, a court-appointed lawyer for Anthony J. Allen of Rochester, the alleged killer, argued that a couple of burglary counts against Allen should be dismissed.

He said Allen's alleged entrance into an office in the group home where he was living doesn't count as entering a building to commit a crime, the legal definition of burglary.

If Key succeeds, two of the six counts of murder against Allen, 19, also would be wiped out. Those accuse him of killing Greco while in the act of committing another crime.

The 11-count indictment accuses Allen of three counts each of first- and second-degree murder for the single killing, as prosecutors asked the grand jury to use various theories that might fit the facts of the case.

Any of the first-degree murder counts could net Allen life in prison without parole if he is convicted in a trial scheduled for May 17.

Key sought to win dismissal of two second-degree burglary counts, a third-degree burglary count and single counts of first- and second-degree murder.

If Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza grants Key's request, co-defendant Robert J. Thousand would escape one of the three counts of second-degree murder he faces as an accomplice. Sperrazza reserved decision.

The third-degree burglary charge accuses the pair of breaking into an office in Avenue House, the group home on East Avenue operated by New Directions Youth & Family Services, and stealing $160 on June 6.

Key also asked Sperrazza to have that count tried separately from the rest of the indictment.

A desire to avoid being implicated in that crime was the alleged motive for Allen allegedly beating Greco, 24, on the head with a heavy piece of wood two nights later as the Buffalo woman sat at a table playing cards with five of the home's residents.

Allen and Thousand were charged with first-degree robbery for allegedly stealing Greco's car keys and with second-degree burglary for allegedly entering the office and stealing keys to a New Directions van.

Police said the van was driven to the Lockport Walmart, where the suspects took a taxi to the bus station in Buffalo. They were apprehended while waiting for a bus to Rochester.

Key has said he plans to use the defense of "extreme emotional distress" for Allen.

Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said Key needs to tell her what "psychological malady" Allen allegedly had.

"He's put nothing forward on that defense," Sloma said. She said she is entitled to have Allen examined by a prosecution psychologist who has to know what he is looking for.

Key said he doesn't know because the defense expert, Charles P. Ewing, hasn't examined Allen yet. He said that should happen next week.

The prosecution intends to use DNA evidence at the trial. On Wednesday, Sperrazza granted Key the authority to have the county pay for a defense expert to try to counter that evidence. The judge placed a limit on the amount to be paid but wouldn't say what it was.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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