LOCKPORT – The owner of a former Niagara Falls business, already charged with shooting his brother-in-law, was charged Monday with trying, while in jail, to hire a hit man to kill the shooting victim and a witness in the case.
Timothy C. DePetris, 44, formerly of the Town of Niagara, was arraigned Monday in Niagara County Court on the new charges.
He pleaded not guilty to four counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts each of attempted second-degree murder, second-degree conspiracy and second-degree criminal solicitation.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said the alleged efforts to hire a hit man occurred between April 3 and May 22. DePetris was in the Niagara County Jail during that period.
Hoffmann turned over to the defense two compact discs of “recorded information,” she said, presumably the alleged telephone calls DePetris made from jail to the would-be hit man.
“All the phones in every jail I’ve ever heard of are recorded,” defense attorney E. Earl Key said, adding that he warns all his clients of the tapped jail telephones.
Key disclosed that the indictment names Sandro Viola, DePetris’ brother-in-law and colleague in a business deal gone sour, as one of the targets DePetris allegedly sought to have killed. The Buffalo News is withholding the name of the witness, who prosecutors say was also targeted.
DePetris, the onetime owner of Electro-Dyn Choke Corp., has been in jail since his arrest March 30 on weapons charges.
County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas ordered DePetris transferred to an isolation cell in the jail, where he is being held without bail.
May 15, he was arraigned on an indictment accusing him of attempted second-degree murder for allegedly shooting Viola, the president of Integrated Controls USA on March 26.
Viola was shot in the shoulder after he opened his office door to find two men claiming they were delivering a pizza. Viola hadn’t ordered one.
Prosecutors believe DePetris was the man who shot Viola. Police arrested DePetris in a March 30 traffic stop, finding a handgun in a holster around his neck. He also had a fully automatic rifle and about 200 rounds of ammunition in the vehicle, authorities said.
DePetris’ last known address was the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel. He was a member of the high-rolling “Chairman’s Club” at the casino, where Key said DePetris had lost more than $1 million gambling.
In the original indictment, DePetris was charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of second-degree criminal trespass.
Hoffmann has said DePetris apparently believed he was underpaid when he sold some machinery to Viola’s company.
Hoffmann said she intends to ask Farkas to consolidate the two indictments. The judge has set a tentative trial date of Oct. 28 for the new indictment and Oct. 14 for the original one.