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Woman, 17, charged in murder

A 17-year-old Niagara Falls woman was the ringleader in the Nov. 8 fatal bludgeoning of John E. Smith, a prosecutor charged Friday.

Amber McNally of Stephenson Avenue set up the attack on Smith in an alley between 22nd and 23rd streets, Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said.

McNally didn't hit Smith, but she allegedly did take part in emptying his pockets after the attack, Hoffmann said.

Gary R. Llamas Jr., 19, of Falls Street, and James S. Hardeman Jr., 17, of 24th Street, were arrested two days after the crime and charged with murder.

McNally's name didn't surface until she was brought to Niagara County Court Friday morning.

She is charged with one count each of felony murder and first-degree robbery.

The three pleaded not guilty before Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza, who scheduled a tentative trial date of July 18.

Llamas and Hardeman each are charged with two counts each of second-degree murder: intentional killing and "felony murder," which is killing in the course of committing another felony.

The other felony was first-degree robbery, the indictment charges.

Llamas also faces an additional charge of tampering with physical evidence. Hoffmann said police found burned clothing, presumably his own, at his house.

In detailing McNally's involvement, Hoffman said: "She set up the robbery with the co-defendants, who were armed with a baseball bat and a golf club. It was her idea. While she distracted the victim, the co-defendants beat him to death by hitting him in the head numerous times. While he lay there dying, she and the other co-defendants went through his pockets and took what little he had, which was a crack pipe and a pack of cigarettes."

Smith, 46, of 23rd Street, died Nov. 9 in Erie County Medical Center after being kept on life support long enough for his organs to be harvested for transplant, Hoffmann said.

Police had said in November they thought the killing resulted from trouble during a drug deal, but they hadn't ruled out robbery. They found the head of a putter near the body.

Llamas is originally from California, where he had a record of juvenile crimes. "I believe he poses a significant flight risk," Hoffmann said, and Sperrazza set bail at $250,000.

Bail for Hardeman and McNally, both local residents, was set at $150,000.

Hoffmann told the judge there had been reports of Hardeman's family phoning potential witnesses. Sperrazza warned: "When members of a defendant's family do something improper, guess who pays the price."

Llamas is being represented by Dominic Saraceno of the county conflict defenders' office. Assistant Public Defender Michael E. Benedict represented Hardeman.

McNally was arrested Thursday after several attempts to get her to turn herself in fell through, Hoffmann said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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