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Hit list revealed as businessman gets 25 years in Falls murder try

LOCKPORT – Timothy C. DePetris, the Niagara Falls businessman who tried to shoot his brother-in-law to death after a business dispute, had other people on his hit list, a prosecutor disclosed Monday.

The revelation came as DePetris, 45, was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for attempted murder in the March 26, 2013, shooting of Sandro Viola.

Niagara County Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said police found that DePetris had gone to another man’s home within a few days of the shooting in an apparent attempt to kill the resident. “He was after anyone who did him wrong,” Hoffmann said. “Thank goodness that man never answered the door.”

Viola, 56, did open the door of his office at Integrated Controls USA on Hyde Park Boulevard in the Falls and was shot in the right collarbone, struck by one of three bullets DePetris fired. DePetris and another man were posing as pizza deliverymen.

Viola said in court Monday that “Tim DePetris came in the dark of night to murder me in a planned, thought-out scheme.” He said he still has pain in the arm and has trouble sleeping.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas imposed the maximum sentence. She rejected an argument that his guilty plea to attempted murder should be disallowed because DePetris’ mind was warped by months in solitary confinement.

Farkas ordered DePetris placed in isolation in Niagara County Jail a year ago after he used jail phones to try to hire a hit man to kill Viola, as well his accomplice, who turned state’s evidence.

That second indictment was formally dismissed Monday as part of the Jan. 29 plea deal. DePetris’ move to back out of it led the attorney who worked out the arrangement, E. Earl Key, to drop DePetris as a client. Farkas then appointed George V.C. Muscato and Brian J. Hutchison of Lockport to represent DePetris.

DePetris, who had been living in the hotel at the Seneca Niagara Casino in the Falls as a member of its high-rolling Chairman’s Club, was arrested four days after the shooting.

Niagara Falls Police Detective Patrick F. Stack, checking the casino parking lot for DePetris’ truck, followed DePetris as he drove in the Falls. He then pulled over the purple pickup.

Stack found a handgun hanging from a homemade holster around DePetris’ neck, and an automatic rifle and a cache of about 200 rounds of ammunition.

“One of the worst decisions Mr. DePetris made prior to this incident: He turned to the casino as a quick, easy way of winning money,” Hutchison said.

DePetris “gambled away close to $1 million,” Hutchison said, and also turned back to drugs after having been clean for 10 years.

“This would have been a different case if, once you had been taken to jail, you had hung your head and said, ‘My God, what have I done?’” Farkas told DePetris,

Instead, DePetris, “stone-cold sober,” used the jail’s tapped phones to try to hire a hit man, the judge said.

Hoffmann, the prosecutor, said the man DePetris thought he had hired was an undercover federal agent.

Hutchison detailed DePetris’ dissolute lifestyle as the business his father founded, Electro-Dyne Choke Corp., ran into trouble. DePetris sought to sell it or its equipment to Viola’s firm to raise cash, but police said he thought he was underpaid.

“He was so involved with the casino, he never had to go home for two years. They started comping his hotel rooms,” the defense attorney added.

“He had vodka in one hand and money in the other, all day and all night.”