NORTH TONAWANDA – Was Ralph D. Stone Jr. an abusive boyfriend who died at the hands of a girlfriend because he was attacking her?
That’s doubtful, according to a former girlfriend and some of Stone’s friends, who showed up during a court appearance Monday for Jennifer Marchant, the woman charged with stabbing Stone in the chest with a kitchen knife Wednesday in the couple’s Oliver Street apartment.
Carolyn Fuller said that she dated Stone off and on since 2009 and that the two remained friends.
“He was an optimistic, full-life guy,” Fuller said outside North Tonawanda City Court. “He always had high energy, but he was good to me. He never touched me. He never laid a hand on me. When we argued, he would just walk away.”
Marchant, 23, who worked as an adult film actor and model for a Miami-based Internet pornography site, had dated Stone for about a year. She pleaded not guilty last week to a second-degree murder charge and was teary-eyed during a follow-up court appearance Monday. Her family sat in the front row, also distraught.
Her attorney, Kevin S. Mahoney, asked the court for more time to gather information in the case and told reporters afterward that his client acted in self-defense.
“We believe she was trapped and had no choice other than to defend herself. She had no intent to kill him,” Mahoney said.
Friends of Stone – who believe alcohol and drugs may have played a role in the stabbing – spoke to The Buffalo News after court, as well, and said it would have been out of character for Stone to act aggressively toward a girlfriend.
“He was never abusive, ever,” said his best friend, Jeff Alexander, Fuller’s brother.
Before he died, Stone, 24, the father of a 2-year-old girl, was starting a new job and “getting his act together” by attending Niagara County Community College. He hoped to someday attend law school, Alexander said.
Instead of hanging out with his friend this week, Alexander will serve as a pall bearer at Stone’s funeral today.
Alexander said he was with the couple in the hours before the fatal stabbing. Later that night, he said, he spoke on the phone with Stone and heard arguing.
Fuller and Alexander described Stone as unhappy in his relationship. They called Marchant controlling and possessive.
“I’m surprised he would choose someone like that, but he was very forgiving,” Fuller said.
All of his friends suspect cocaine and alcohol were likely factors in Wednesday’s stabbing.
“I knew Ralph had been looking for coke, but that wasn’t something he would have done before he met her,” Alexander said.
North Tonawanda police said Stone died before he could reach the hospital.
Fuller said she found a cryptic note that had been placed on Facebook by Marchant around the same time that said Stone had irritated her and that her feelings toward him apparently had changed. Fuller said the message was taken down, but she was able to share it with Stone’s family, who gave it to police.
Fuller, who is not the mother of Stone’s daughter, Lillianna, added, “His daughter was his world.”
“There is no doubt that people cared a great deal for Ralph Stone,” said Mahoney, Marchant’s lawyer, “but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the aggressor.”
Marchant is scheduled to return to City Court on March 7.
Stone’s funeral will be at 10 a.m. today in Lighthouse Baptist Church, 383 Wheatfield St.