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Murder verdict could bring sentence of 40 years to life for Falls man, 18

LOCKPORT – An 18-year-old Niagara Falls man could face a maximum sentence of 40 years to life in prison after being convicted of murder Thursday.

A State Supreme Court jury of six men and six women took two hours to find Darrell J. Belton Jr. guilty in the Sept. 23 slaying of William A. Reilly, 30, in the victim’s home on Pierce Avenue in the Falls.

Belton also was convicted of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. ordered the Whitney Avenue man held without bail pending sentencing Aug. 12.

The defendant had rejected a plea offer that would have seen him plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter and the weapons count in exchange for a definite sentence of 25 years.

He remained impassive as the verdict was announced.

Jeremy D. Schwartz, the lead defense attorney, said, “We’re disappointed in the verdict, but we’ll look at any issues that could be appealed. Mr. Belton, even though he’s only 18 years old, handled it as an adult.”

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann declined to comment. She was assisted by Claudette S. Caldwell, while Michael G. Putzak was the other defense attorney.

The jury asked to rehear the 911 tape of Reilly’s girlfriend, Tiffany Garcia, telling a dispatcher that “Flock” – Belton’s street nickname – shot Reilly.

They also reheard testimony from Niagara Falls Police Officer Joseph Scibilia, who said he overheard a conversation in a holding cell on the day of Belton’s arrest. Scibilia said Belton told another inmate, “I’m in here for murder. … He asked me to shoot him.”

Reilly had called Belton about an hour before the slaying, asking for a delivery of a $10 bag of marijuana.

However, Belton didn’t show up in a timely fashion, and during a series of calls and texts, Reilly told Belton not to come over.

But he did. A surveillance video from a warehouse next door showed a car pulling into the driveway of the Garcia-Reilly home, then backing out and backing into the driveway. Hoffmann said that looked like it was to facilitate a fast getaway by Belton.

“He went there to shoot and kill Billy (Reilly), and he did,” Hoffmann said in her summation.

But Schwartz contended that the real killer was an unidentified man who entered the house a few minutes after Belton.

Schwartz said Garcia’s account of the shooting was wrong, which he blamed on “a little bit of post-traumatic stress going on.” The defense attorney said police know the name of the second man. “They can’t talk to him because he got a lawyer,” Schwartz said.

Hoffmann said, “The reason the other person hasn’t been charged is because there was no evidence he was the shooter. None.”