LOCKPORT – Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said she’s never seen something like this in 35 years: a situation where the officers who investigated a homicide were unhappy that the killer was convicted.
It was one final twist in the case of Jennifer R. Marchant, the former Internet pornography performer who stabbed Ralph D. Stone Jr. to death in her apartment on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda on Feb. 2, 2013.
Marchant, 24, said she killed Stone, 24, in self-defense, and according to the judge, reading from a Probation Department presentencing report, three veteran North Tonawanda detectives said they felt it was a self-defense killing.
From the bench, Farkas quoted Lt. Karen Smith as saying, “It’s a shame she was found guilty.”
Wednesday, having to choose between five and 25 years for Marchant’s prison sentence for first-degree manslaughter, Farkas chose 12 years with five years of post-release supervision.
She said it would make both sides unhappy, and she was right.
“Completely unjust,” said Edwin Marchant, the defendant’s father. He called Stone “an abusive, violent individual, and my daughter did what she needed to do to survive.”
“It’s not enough time,” said Michelle Stone, the victim’s mother. “She brutally murdered my son.”
She and Assistant District Attorney Lisa M. Baehre asked for the maximum 25-year sentence, but Farkas said, “I think there’s responsibility on both sides.”
When Farkas asked Baehre to respond to the police opinion, she answered, “They may not be clear on the law of justification.”
That’s a legal term for self-defense, and Marchant’s attorney, Dominic Saraceno, criticized New York’s laws in that area. He said their requirement that a person has a duty to retreat until confronted with deadly force doesn’t fit a domestic violence situation.
“This law is not written for a 220-pound man with lots of fighting experience, going up against a woman,” he said.
Marchant weighed 240, according to trial testimony, but Saraceno said Stone was far stronger. Also, Stone was drunk, with his blood alcohol content measured during his autopsy at 0.285 percent, 3½ times the legal threshold for intoxication.
“The police dealt over the years with Ralph Stone. They knew what he was like when he was drinking,” Saraceno said, brandishing a half-inch stack of domestic violence reports on Stone filed by a former girlfriend. He said the police considered Stone “public enemy No. 1.”
Marchant, whose blood alcohol content was measured at 0.06 percent when she was being questioned by police, had a domestic violence history, too. A former boyfriend told police Marchant tried to stab him; another reported being physically assaulted.
Farkas told Baehre, a 17-year prosecutor specializing in domestic violence cases, “You’ve always maintained that this was not a typical domestic violence case. You’ve always said this defendant gave as good as she got.”
“I loved him too, a lot,” Marchant said. “I did everything I could that night to get away from him.”
She told police that Stone was pursuing her through the apartment and she grabbed a steak knife from a kitchen butcher block. She said Stone, who was unarmed, taunted her by saying, “Stab me. Be the boss. Stab me.”
Michelle Stone said her son was breaking up with Marchant that night, which she said triggered Marchant’s “anger and viciousness.”
Stone called 911 several times but wouldn’t talk to the dispatchers. They called back and Marchant answered once. Baehre said her voice on the tape was “very happy, chipper.”
The prosecutor added, “It is the people’s opinion that the defendant was the aggressor. The defendant’s life was not threatened by Ralph Stone.”