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Judge in murder case warns families of victim and defendant to keep away from each other

A judge on Tuesday urged the families of Raymond D. Smith and the estranged girlfriend he is accused of killing to avoid any contact with members of the other family through social media or any other means.

The warning came after Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk arraigned Smith on one count of second-degree murder in the fatal beating and choking of Shaquilla M. Coston sometime between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in her home on Northumberland Avenue.

The judge directed his remarks at both families, noting that feelings are running high on both sides in the case. He did not elaborate.

After the arraignment, Assistant District Attorney James F. Bargnesi, chief of District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III’s Homicide Bureau, said the families are very upset. “The judge took steps to tamp down the rhetoric,” he said.

Susan M. Karalus, Smith’s attorney, said there was a history of domestic violence between Smith and Coston, the mother of his 1-year-old child. She said the child has been placed with Coston’s relatives.

Smith, 23, of Warwick Avenue, who is being held without bail, pleaded not guilty in the fatal attack on Coston, which occurred during what police described as a heated argument. He was arrested Feb. 11 on Clay Street in the city’s Black Rock section.

Coston’s family called police after they had been unable to reach her. Her body was found in her bedroom. An autopsy determined her death was a homicide.