In a somber courtroom on Thursday, Patrick Dennis’ brother showed a judge, prosecutors and the defendants the kind of man his brother was, and the kind of family that he came from.
Dennis Dennis was there for the sentencing of the two young men convicted of killing his brother – of beating him to death during a senseless robbery. He told Eric Kocol and George Mowers II that the family forgave them for what they had done. He said the family hoped the crime wouldn’t ruin the defendants’ lives, too.
“We don’t want to carry around hatred and bad feelings to poison our lives,” Dennis said before the two were each sentenced to 22½ years in prison for their convictions of first-degree manslaughter.
The sentiments were reflective of Patrick Dennis himself, according to his siblings. A lifelong resident of Buffalo, Dennis was walking to his East Side home after celebrating St. Patrick’s Day last March 18 when Kocol and Mowers, young men that Dennis knew from the neighborhood, assaulted him. He was brutally beaten before the two stole his ring and his wallet and then left him to die alone in the cold outside his Peck Street home.
Dennis, who worked as a handyman, was 64 years old and, his brother said, began his life in difficult circumstances in the projects and saw it end even worse. In between, however, he developed many deep friendships, which kept him from following his family to other parts of the country. Some of those friends were in court Thursday on his behalf.
“The sad thing is, if (the killers) would have asked him for his money, he would have given it to them,” said Charlie Krantz, who knew Dennis for more than 40 years. “He was a child of God. He behaved as God would want. He helped everyone, no matter what.”
Because Dennis was not known to have any enemies and because of how he was found, police originally thought his death might have been caused by a fall or other accident, his sister, Pamela Porter, said after court.
“That would have been easier to take,” Porter said. “But we can’t thank the Buffalo police enough for following through and doing their job and solving this. They have been great.”
DNA left by the defendants on Dennis’ clothing helped identify them, since both had previous felony convictions. Kocol, 27, of Gatchell Street had a prior conviction for burglary and Mowers, 22, of Gold Street had been convicted of attempted robbery. They were arrested last summer and charged with murder, robbery and manslaughter, and pleaded guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge.
Their attorneys told State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia that the men both had long histories of drug and alcohol abuse, which were factors in their ill-fated decision to attack Dennis. Kocol lamented that he had been “clean” for a long time before the crime and Mowers said to the family, “Thank you for not hating us.”
Buscaglia told the defendants that he did not consider drug and alcohol abuse a reason for leniency before sentencing them to close to the maximum prison term of 25 years. In addition to their 22½-year sentences, Buscaglia ordered five years of post-release supervision for both.
Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin-Gable prosecuted the case.