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Manslaughter charges replace murder in North Tonawanda slaying

LOCKPORT – Jennifer Marchant is no longer charged with murder in the Feb. 6 stabbing death of her live-in boyfriend.

Marchant, 23, of Oliver Street, North Tonawanda, was arraigned Tuesday in Niagara County Court on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter. She pleaded not guilty.

A grand jury did not indict Marchant on the second-degree murder charge that North Tonawanda police had filed against her after the killing of Ralph D. Stone Jr., 24.

“[Police] charged what I told them to charge, based on what we knew at the time,” Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said Tuesday. “I think these are the appropriate charges.”

First-degree manslaughter is defined as killing someone when a defendant intends only to inflict serious injury. Second-degree manslaughter is reckless killing.

Marchant, who formerly made adult Internet videos under the name “Scarlett Rouge,” stabbed Stone just below the neck in their Oliver Street apartment.

Defense attorneys Glenn Pincus and Steven M. Cohen contended that Marchant isn’t guilty of any crime; they say she killed Stone in self-defense.

“This is the quintessential self-defense case,” Cohen said. “She was chased around by Mr. Stone, who had a history of violence. She was in fear for her life, which is what you need for [legal] self-defense.”

In interviews with The Buffalo News in February, friends of Stone, who had a 2-year-old daughter by another woman, denied that he was ever violent or abusive.

“The strength of the people’s case is very strong,” Hoffmann told County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas. “The defense will say it was self-defense. That defense was presented to the grand jury, and they clearly rejected that defense.”

Pincus said attorneys on both sides met twice with Farkas before the case was presented to the grand jury, trying unsuccessfully to work out a pre-indictment resolution of the case.

“Jennifer Marchant never intended to cause anyone’s death,” Cohen said.

Hoffmann said Marchant had two previous arrests for driving while intoxicated and was on probation on that charge when Stone was killed. “She was out drinking, without question, the night this occurred,” Hoffmann told the judge. “She has shown an inability to follow the rules set by the probation officer.”

Hoffmann asked Farkas to set bail at $300,000; Pincus suggested $50,000. Farkas chose $100,000 bail. Cohen said Marchant’s family likely would be able to obtain a bail bond for that amount. Marchant was still in Niagara County Jail on Tuesday night. Pincus said that if Marchant is released, she likely will live with her mother in the Town of Tonawanda.

Pincus, the former chief drug prosecutor in Erie County, said Marchant needs counseling for grief and alcohol.

“Ms. Marchant has been incarcerated in relation to this event since it occurred. She has not been able to process it psychologically,” Pincus told Farkas.

“The programs she needs are available to her in the jail if she wants to take advantage of them,” Farkas replied.

Marchant is due to return to court May 7, when Cohen and Pincus are to report on whether they will continue to be retained to represent her. Farkas set a pretrial conference for July 10 and a tentative trial date of Oct. 7.