The weekend death of former Police Officer Patricia A. “Patty” Parete, six years after she was shot and paralyzed, has been classified a homicide, authorities said today.
With that classification issued by the Erie County Medical Examiner's Office, police officials say it will be up to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III to determine if a charge of first-degree murder should be brought against Varner Harris Jr.
Harris already is serving a sentence of 30 years to life for shooting Parete and her partner, Officer Carl E. Andolina, six years ago.
Harris shot Parete during a struggle the night of Dec. 5, 2006, when she and Andolina responded to a call of a fight at West Chippewa Street and Whitney Place. Her spine was severely damaged by the second bullet.
Andolina, shot three times, managed to wrestle Harris to the ground, even though he was wounded.
“Harris deserves to get whatever is the maximum allowed under law and I wish it was the death penalty,” a city police official said, adding that he did not think it proper to comment on the record until Parete's funeral was held.
Sedita could not be reached to comment.
Parete, recently under the care of hospice, died just after 2 a.m. Saturday in her Niagara County home, which had been specially constructed in order to accommodate her wheelchair.
The first bullet that struck Parete was caught by her bulletproof vest, but the second hit her chin and continued into her spine, leaving her quadriplegic. Andolina, whose injuries included a bullet wound in the neck, retired about a year ago on a disability pension.
Now 25 years old, Harris is an inmate at the state's Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Comstock.