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Slaying results in possible life term ; Falls man killed in robbery attempt

Darnell D. Carter had nothing to say Thursday as Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza sentenced him to 40 years to life in prison in the slaying of a Niagara Falls man last year.

Carter, 23, of 12th Street, Niagara Falls, showed little interest in the proceedings, standing quietly and even yawning as the prosecutor and the victim's mother spoke.

He was sentenced to 25 years to life for the murder of Robert R. Biggs. Sperrazza, who made no comment on the case, added another 15 years for weapons possession.

A jury found Carter guilty March 31 in the death of Biggs, 39, of Maple Avenue, who was shot March 20, 2009, during a robbery attempt between the Hometown Market, a Pierce Avenue grocery store, and an apartment building Biggs had recently purchased.

Biggs ran from the scene. But the bullet had struck a major artery in his upper arm, and he collapsed and bled to death in the backyard of a home on Whitney Avenue.

"In my heart, I know he's dead, but in my mind, I just can't accept it. I keep waiting for him to come home," said Alma Payne, Biggs' mother.

Surveillance video from the store lacked audio, but prosecutors interpreted it as showing Carter planning the robbery and leading some other men past the front of the store to the crime scene.

The names of the other men in the video are known, but no one else has been charged in the case.

"If we get something new, we'll run with it," Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said. She said the case isn't closed.

Witnesses, however, agreed that Carter, clad in a distinctive purple hooded sweat shirt, fired the shots.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Carter identified another man as the shooter. But the video showed that man heading in the opposite direction from Carter moments before the shooting, which was not captured on tape.

"There's no way I can describe this act except as a senseless death," Hoffmann told the judge. "By purchasing that building, by driving a nice car in the City of Niagara Falls, by wearing nice jewelry, [Biggs] unwittingly set himself up as a target for Darnell Carter."

Hoffmann noted that after Biggs collapsed, his pursuer pulled down Biggs' pants and emptied his pockets, looking for something to steal before leaving him to die. "Despicable acts," the prosecutor said.

"My client intends to appeal this issue," Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer said.

He focused his presentencing comments to trying to persuade Sperrazza to delete from a probation report statements about Carter's activities after a previous conviction.

Payne remained composed as she spoke to the judge.

"He had three children. His youngest at that time was 5. I spoke to him a couple weeks ago, and all he could say was, 'I miss my dad,' " Payne said. "He had a large family, and everyone loved him, and what he's left me with is a life sentence."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com