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A 20-year-old man charged with murdering the owner of Malone’s Bar & Grill in Kenmore admitted stealing an $800 business check from the man’s residence, but he denied killing him, law enforcement officials testified Wednesday in State Supreme Court.

Antonio Martin-Brown, of Buffalo, who has been charged with second-degree murder, told detectives he had been to the home of Vincent J. Cottone, the 62-year-old bar owner, on several occasions.

Martin-Brown told authorities that Cottone would leave his Landers Road residence unlocked, so Cottone did not use a key to enter his home, a criminal investigator testified.

Kenmore Police Department detectives and the investigator for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office questioned Martin-Brown on May 20, the day after Cottone’s body was found in his home.

Two Kenmore detectives showed up at a house where Martin-Brown was living in Buffalo’s Kensington-Bailey neighborhood, and asked to speak to him about a stolen check, said Kenmore Detective Joseph Vacanti.

Vacanti was investigating the stolen check, and the other detective was investigating the homicide.

Martin-Brown agreed to accompany the detectives to Police Headquarters in Kenmore, and he admitted stealing the check during his first round of questioning, Vacanti said during a hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.

After Martin-Brown gave a written statement about the stolen check, a second round of questioning followed, and that one concerned Cottone’s killing.

Mark Stambach, a criminal investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, testified he began questioning Martin-Brown at 4:30 p.m. in a nonconfrontational interview and then took a statement from him between 5:10 and 6:10 p.m.

Martin-Brown agreed to give a DNA sample and let police photograph his hands, wrists, arms and chest.

After Martin-Brown finished his statement, Stambach started questioning him again.

“I told him I firmly believed he was the person who killed Mr. Cottone,” Stambach testified.

“He indicated he did not commit the murder,” Stambach said.

Martin-Brown then was asked to take a polygraph test, and at that point, “He said he thought he needed an attorney,” Stambach said.

After the second round of questions, Kenmore police arrested Martin-Brown on a bad-check charge – not Cottone’s killing, Stambach said. Martin-Brown was not charged with murder until early June.

Martin-Brown, accompanied by relatives, turned himself in to authorities June 7.

Cottone was an apparent victim of blunt-force trauma, police have said. No gun was used, but police have not confirmed any other weapons they believe were used in the attack.

The judge conducted Wednesday’s hearing to listen to those who questioned Martin-Brown. Buscaglia will rule on the admissibility of Martin-Brown’s statements before the scheduled Feb. 3 trial date.

Martin-Brown, in his statements, acknowledged some form of a relationship with Cottone, but that relationship was not described in court Wednesday.

Defense attorney Andrew C. LoTempio told the judge that Martin-Brown does not plan to plead guilty.

email: plakamp@buffnews.com