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Niagara inmate charged with seeking someone to kill his wife

LOCKPORT – A Town of Lockport man, already in Niagara County Jail awaiting trial on charges of assaulting his wife, was arraigned Friday on a new indictment accusing him of trying to recruit someone to kill her.

In a series of phone calls from the jail during May, Benito Lendof-Gonzalez allegedly called several different people, trying to persuade them to kill his wife and another member of her family, Assistant District Attorney Heather A. Sloma said in court.

All inmate calls from the jail are monitored, and signs near the phones alert inmates to this fact, Sloma said.

Lendof-Gonzalez, 33, of Elmhurst Drive, pleaded not guilty to six counts of attempted murder and one count of criminal solicitation.

He pleaded not guilty May 16 to an indictment accusing him of choking his wife and holding her at knifepoint in their home April 21. He allegedly threatened to commit a murder-suicide, Sloma said during that arraignment.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon, who denied bail for Lendof-Gonzalez, said she’ll think about Sloma’s request to order the inmate into solitary confinement and take away his phone privileges except to talk to his court-appointed defense attorney, George V.C. Muscato.

Sheldon said she won’t make a decision on that issue until she hears the tapes of the phone calls in which Lendof-Gonzalez allegedly sought to arrange two murders.

Lendof-Gonzalez is a citizen of the Dominican Republic living in the U.S. on a green card.

An interpreter was used during Friday’s arraignment, although Sheldon observed that the defendant seemed to be communicating well with Muscato in English.

Lendof-Gonzalez said there were “a few words” he was having trouble with. Muscato said he’s not sure if an interpreter will have to be present during future proceedings.