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DePetris jury will not hear of hit man allegations, judge rules

LOCKPORT – Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas on Friday rejected a prosecution request to present testimony about Timothy C. DePetris’ alleged attempt while in the county jail to hire a hit man to kill his brother-in-law and a witness in his criminal case.

DePetris goes to trial Feb. 3 on charges of shooting his brother-in-law and illegal weapons possession.

The hit man allegations are contained in a second indictment that Farkas has already ruled must be tried separately.

The judge said she agreed with objections from defense attorney E. Earl Key to the prosecution’s attempt to add the hit man allegation to its case.

“You’d be trying both cases at the same time, and I cannot permit that because I did not allow consolidation [of the indictments],” Farkas said.

DePetris, 44, is charged with shooting Sandro Viola March 26 at Viola’s office. Viola, 56, is the president of Integrated Controls USA, a company to which DePetris’ business, Electro-Dyne Choke Corp., had sold machinery.

DePetris allegedly believed his company was underpaid by Integrated Controls.

More information about the alleged hit man attempt may be disclosed when Farkas holds a hearing Jan. 23 about the admissibility of testimony from a jailhouse informant.

In another high-profile case Friday, County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III ruled that prosecutors can’t tell a jury how Cordarise M. Houston gave himself up in connection with the shooting of a Niagara Falls man.

A team of four U.S. marshals entered a room at the Motel 6 in Niagara Falls May 28 to arrest Houston, who shouted through the door, “I’m on my knees. I have my hands behind my head.”

When they entered, the marshals found that was true.

Information about his posture and his subsequent statements will not be allowed at Houston’s March 24 trial on attempted murder charges.

Houston allegedly shot John Petty, 24, seven times on May 26 in the victim’s Niagara Falls home. Petty survived and called 911 to tell police that Houston shot him.

Murphy will consider whether to allow the statements Houston’s wife, Marguerita Houston, made in a subsequent hour-long police interview.

She is charged with hindering prosecution for allegedly helping her husband avoid police for two days.

Also, Farkas finalized a Jan. 6 trial date for Jennifer Marchant, 24, of North Tonawanda, who allegedly stabbed her live-in boyfriend to death – in self-defense, she told police.

Marchant is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the Feb. 6 slaying of Ralph D. Stone Jr., 24, in the couple’s Oliver Street apartment.

She told police Stone was drunk and was chasing her around the apartment.