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Suspect in Buffalo homicide accuses victim of abusing her; family disputes claim

The 17-year-old Buffalo girl accused of murdering her step-grandfather had been planning to kill him for weeks because he was physically abusing her, according to the mother of her co-defendant.

Johanna Jirdon told The Buffalo News that her son, Romaine Jirdon, 19, told her that his girlfriend, Alexandria Heath, came up with the idea to kill Thomas D. Heath, but that she now is trying to put all of the blame on her son.

However, the girl’s lawyer said murder was never part of the plan.

“I don’t agree with that at all,” attorney Brian K. Parker said. “The plan was to run away together, and to take his (the victim’s) car.”

Parker said that Thomas Heath saw Alexandria’s packed bags when he got home Friday and that the fatal struggle began when he tried to stop Alexandria from leaving their West Side home. Jirdon allegedly heard the commotion and jumped into the fight.

Paul G. Dell, Jirdon’s attorney, said the altercation started as “a mutual fight.”

Both teenagers are charged in the killing and both told investigators that Heath was physically abusive toward the girl, according to Parker and Dell. Dell told The Buffalo News that his client said he observed Heath beating the girl on the day of the killing, and Parker said he was told a similar version.

Thomas Heath, 58, was found dead Friday night in his apartment at 459 W. Ferry St. Police said he was beaten and stabbed.

Laura Stickney Heath, his estranged wife, disagreed with the claims that Heath regularly abused Alexandria.


Family members and friends of homicide victim Thomas Heath wore buttons with his picture in court on Wednesday. (Aaron Besecker/Buffalo News)

As Alexandria Heath and Jirdon waived their felony hearings in Buffalo City Court on Wednesday, about 30 family members and friends of Thomas Heath were in the courtroom wearing buttons with his picture. Friends of Heath told The News that he raised Alexandria Heath like she was his own daughter.

The defendants are being held without bail on second-degree murder charges.

Authorities would not comment on statements made by Jirdon’s attorney or his mother. A spokeswoman for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment, noting that the case was in the process of being presented to a grand jury.

Buffalo police arrested Alexandria Heath and Jirdon on Friday night at the home of Jirdon’s mother. Officers took Alexandria Heath into custody outside the home, but Jirdon managed to initially evade police and get inside. The Buffalo police SWAT team responded, and Jirdon was apprehended after he jumped out of a window, Lt. Jeffrey D. Rinaldo said.


Romaine Jirdon appears in Buffalo City Court on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 on a charge of murdering Thomas Heath. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Johanna Jirdon said that on the day of the homicide, Jirdon and Thomas Heath had gone food shopping, and Heath made tacos for dinner. She also said that Alexandria Heath and Jirdon, who had been a couple for about two months, drank two bottles of Hennessy cognac that day with two of Jirdon’s friends and that all four participated in the attack on Heath.

Authorities have said nothing about other suspects being involved in the homicide and have charged no one but Alexandria Heath and Jirdon.

Parker said that he understood that two other people lived in Heath’s house, but that he had heard nothing about them being part of the attack. However, he said it was possible that there could be other witnesses to the beating.

“I haven’t heard the 911 call yet,” Parker said.

Romaine Jirdon has been in trouble with police before. Johanna Jirdon said she was not trying to make excuses for what her son did, but that he has had mental issues since he was about 6 and he was kicked out of kindergarten for biting. He underwent counseling for several years, she said, but stopped going when he was 16.

Also when Jirdon was 16, in March 2014, he was charged with using a fake pistol in a robbery on Timon Street on the East Side, according to a police report. Another suspect who was arrested used a knife in the robbery, according to the report. Court records for that case have been sealed.

Jirdon also pleaded guilty in January to attempted burglary and was sentenced to a year of incarceration, according to court records. He was released from jail in August. Jirdon also pleaded guilty in February to unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, according to City Court records.

He was arrested earlier this month with another man for allegedly pistol-whipping and punching a man on Ferguson Avenue. That case is pending.

Johanna Jirdon said her son is remorseful about what happened to Thomas Heath. “He regrets it,” she said, adding that her son thought Heath was a good man.

Dell, attorney for Jirdon, said his client was “very high and intoxicated” that night and “doesn’t remember a whole lot.”


Alexandria Heath appears in Buffalo City Court on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 on a charge of murdering her step-grandfather Thomas Heath. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

He raised his step-granddaughter like his own child; now she's accused of killing him

Neighbors heard arguing and saw vehicle leave at time of West Ferry homicide

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