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PARDEE CONVICTED OF MURDERING TEEN GIRL

PARDEE CONVICTED OF MURDERING TEEN GIRL

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Daniel W. Pardee faces a likely sentence of 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of murder Monday in the 2002 stabbing death of 16-year-old Jennifer M. Bolender.

A Niagara County Court jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning its verdict of guilty to intentional murder and first-degree conspiracy at about 7:20 p.m.

"How do you like it now?" the victim's mother, Tina Balsano, shouted at Pardee as the defendant was led past a knot of reporters after the court session.

The pale, diminutive Pardee, his lower lip trembling, looked at Balsano as he shuffled along in his shackles. For an instant, it seemed as if he might say something, but he didn't.

Pardee took the verdict hard and had to be helped from the courtroom after the jury left. His family was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, but later his sobbing mother was allowed to visit him briefly in the prisoner holding room.

Jennifer's family embraced one another and the prosecuting attorneys. Assistant District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek, who Monday became the first woman attorney to give a summation in a murder trial in Niagara County, wiped away a tear, too.

"There should have been no doubt," she said. "This case, in our opinion, was always intentional."

Wojtaszek praised the work of the Niagara Falls Police Department. "Obviously, this case was built solidly because of them," she said.

Pardee, 20, of Niagara Falls, is to be sentenced Dec. 16 by Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

Two co-defendants who pleaded guilty to murder as accomplices to Pardee and testified against him are to be sentenced Thursday. Kyle A. Cummings, 16, and Christopher D. Cummings, 15, admitted involvement in the attack on Bolender, which occurred in the early hours of Dec. 14 on a pedestrian overpass above the LaSalle Expressway in Niagara Falls.

Jennifer was stabbed 47 times, and her face and head were repeatedly kicked and stomped, prosecutors said.

"She can rest in peace," Balsano said of her daughter. "Hopefully, the next step is to get the maximum sentence."

District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III, who worked with Wojtaszek on the prosecution, said a consecutive sentence of two 25-years-to-life terms is possible but, based on his experience, unlikely. He said judges seldom sentence separately for a conspiracy charge when there is also a conviction for the main crime.

"We think the boys should rot," said Catherine Hosie, an aunt of the victim.

The trial started Oct. 6. It included five days of jury selection and 11 days of testimony.

The prosecution argued that Pardee attacked Jennifer after she refused three of his requests to kiss him. Prosecutors presented witnesses who said Pardee had choked her in a quarrel at Prime Outlets Mall two days before the slaying and told her, "You don't know who you're screwing with."

Defense attorney Angelo Musitano argued in his summation that Kyle Cummings was the actual killer, but Wojtaszek argued that it did not matter who struck most of the blows.

Musitano, who left after the verdict without speaking with reporters, asserted that Kyle Cummings attacked Jennifer and "did it spontaneously without any knowledge or assistance from Daniel Pardee."

Wojtaszek said Pardee had to be considered at least an accomplice. She said that all three defendants bore some responsibility for the Frontier Avenue girl's death and that the jury was not required to determine the identity of the ringleader.

The prosector told the jury, "If all you believe is the defendant's own statement and the physical and forensic evidence, . . . you, at the very least, should find him guilty of murder in the second degree under the depraved-indifference count."

However, the jury ended up skipping past an alternative count of murder by reason of "depraved indifference to human life" because it convicted Pardee of intentional killing.

Wojtaszek read from Pardee's Dec. 23 statement to police, in which he admitted helping drag Jennifer up the catwalk and acknowledged kicking her "hard enough to make her roll over."

A bloodstain and Jennifer's DNA were found on the cuff of Pardee's coat.

After Kyle Cummings and Pardee were present for the first attack, they returned to the Cummings home on 72nd Street and asked Christopher what had happened. The brothers testified that Pardee cut his left thumb and theirs in a blood oath to keep the matter a secret before all three went back to the scene.

Blown-up photos of the three thumbs were posted on a bulletin board during Wojtaszek's summation.

According to the Cummings' account, Christopher Cummings cut the girl's throat at Pardee's direction and Pardee stabbed her repeatedly with a pair of scissors. They removed Jennifer's coat, purse and ring.

The clothing was buried in the Cummings' back yard along With the scissors and the steak knife Christopher used on the girl's throat. The items were stuffed into a shopping bag, which police unearthed four days later. The ring was found in Pardee's property when he was jailed on an unrelated charge Dec. 15.

The switchblade used in the first attack, which Kyle Cummings said he got from his mother, was thrown into a sewer at Edison Avenue and 70th Street, and police recovered it.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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