LOCKPORT – Antoine M. Bradberry died because he was overweight and had a weak heart, not because he was beaten in a robbery attempt, a defense attorney told a Niagara County Court jury Thursday.
Michael S. Deal said in his opening statement that no injury suffered by Bradberry, 41, in a fight with the robber was enough to kill him. He said the jury will hear evidence that Bradberry was moving around his apartment after the assailant left.
Matthew A. Davis, 37, of Pierce Avenue, Niagara Falls, is on trial on murder charges stemming from Bradberry’s Aug. 22, 2011, death in the Jefferson Apartments on Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls.
The indictment does not accuse Davis of intentional killing, but rather of “felony murder”: causing a death in the process of committing another felony, in this case first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary.
Deal, who is representing Davis along with Phillip Dabney Jr., said the autopsy found that the cause of Bradberry’s death was “hypertensive cardiovascular disease, caused by obesity.”
“You will hear a medical opinion that the manner of his death is best characterized as undetermined,” Deal assured the jurors. “Maybe it was just his time to go.”
He also denied that Davis was the robber, but Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann told the jury in her opening statement that surveillance video from the front of the building and the hallway outside Bradberry’s apartment show Davis and two women coming and going.
“There was a violent struggle between these two men, leaving blood all over the apartment,” Hoffmann said. “You’ll learn that Antoine Bradberry was overweight and had a heart condition, but he also suffered some violent injuries, and the combination of those two things caused his death.”
“Maybe both stories make sense,” Deal told the jury. “It’s all right. It’s reasonable doubt.”
Officer Matthew Szczpaniec, the second policeman on the scene when Bradberry’s body was found Aug. 23, said the victim “fell through a coffee table. … There were massive amounts of blood.”
Davis’ mistress, Teara D. Fatico, 22, testified Thursday that Davis cooked up a scheme to rob Bradberry after the latter sent Fatico a private message via Facebook, asking to meet her. Fatico said she persuaded her friend Chastity L. Wilson, 21, to help them. Both women pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree burglary and were sentenced in February to 13 years in prison.
Fatico said Bradberry befriended her on Facebook by leaving comments on her photos. She said Davis “looked kind of shocked” when he saw Bradberry’s message on her smartphone.
Davis’ plan was for the women to visit Bradberry and determine whether he had any cash or drugs worth stealing, Fatico said. Neither she nor Wilson stuck around when Davis entered the apartment.
Hoffmann said the video shows that Davis was in the apartment for 13 minutes and left wearing a coat and carrying a plastic garbage bag he didn’t have when he entered. Fatico said the bag contained marijuana in two jars and some plastic bags, which she had seen earlier in the apartment.