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Closing arguments likely today in 'identical twin' murder trial

Closing arguments are expected today in the "identical twin" murder trial in Niagara County Court.

Edward E. Nickens, 32, of Michigan Avenue, Niagara Falls, is charged with the May 16 shooting death of Joshua Hayes, 23, which occurred in front of Nickens' house.

In testimony Monday, defense attorney Frank LoTempio III accused Niagara Falls Detective Thomas Ewing of focusing the investigation exclusively on Nickens and his twin brother, Raymond C. Nickens, to the exclusion of other possibilities.

LoTempio noted that other people were at the scene, including four of Hayes' cousins, one of whom testified last week that they followed a car normally driven by Edward Nickens to Michigan Avenue "to beat up the twins" in revenge for previous fights.

"Your whole investigation was about determining which twin did it, not if anyone else was involved in it. Isn't that right?" LoTempio asked Ewing.

"We followed where the investigation led us, where the evidence led," Ewing answered.

Referring to two of Hayes' cousins who were at the scene, Ewing said, "We had no reason to believe Larry Smith touched the gun. I had no reason to believe Demetrious Hayes was involved."

Nickens was interviewed a few hours after the 3 a.m. shooting but wasn't charged until Oct. 7. In the interim, Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza agreed to a prosecution request to take photos of the Nickens brothers stripped to the waist to illustrate their differing builds and tattoos.

Raymond Nickens customarily wore a lip ring and Edward didn't, which several witnesses have said was a key way of telling them apart.

Before the jury entered the courtroom, Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann told Sperrazza at the start of Monday's proceedings that she intended to introduce cell phone records in an attempt to show that the twins weren't together at the time of the shooting.

LoTempio said he had not offered an alibi defense and thus the evidence would be irrelevant, but Sperrazza disagreed.

When the T-Mobile official, George Costen, took the stand at the end of the day, much of his time was devoted to showing which cell phone towers in Niagara Falls relayed calls made from two phones, both registered to Edward Nickens' account, on the night of the shooting.

One phone was picked up by a tower atop Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center on 10th Street and another phone was picked up by an antenna on 18th Street. Raymond Nickens' name was never mentioned.

LoTempio got Costen to admit that cell phone calls often "bounce" to towers that aren't necessarily the nearest ones to the caller.

Hoffmann pointed out that 3 a.m. is not a busy phone time and that calls probably wouldn't need to bounce to other towers then. Costen agreed with that, too.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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