LOCKPORT – Six counts accusing Timothy C. DePetris of violating the state’s new gun control law on high-capacity ammunition magazines were dismissed Wednesday, but that left untouched the main charges accusing DePetris of shooting his brother-in-law and then trying to hire a hit man to kill him and a witness.
Meanwhile, testimony in an evidence-suppression hearing Wednesday indicated that DePetris might have been doing some practice shooting at the company he owned, Electro-Dyne Choke Corp., several weeks before the crime.
Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas granted a motion to drop six counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon after defense attorney E. Earl Key said that the definition of illegal large-capacity magazines was changed by the State Legislature the day before DePetris was arrested.
DePetris, 44, is charged with the March 26 shooting of Sandro Viola, 56, at the latter’s office at the company he owns, Integrated Controls, on Hyde Park Boulevard in Niagara Falls.
Retired Niagara Falls Detective Patrick Stack testified Wednesday in an evidence-suppression hearing that he captured DePetris March 30 in a traffic stop.
However, Key said that on March 29, a budget bill became law that suspended the changes in the definition of illegal magazines in the original SAFE Act, passed in January.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann conceded that Key was correct and moved to drop those charges.
Police said they found 16 magazines, some taped together in six pairs, in a purple Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Michael Craig, which Stack stopped at 18th Street and Pierce Avenue about 6 a.m. March 30.
Hoffmann said Craig was the witness DePetris allegedly sought to have killed later.
Stack said he patted DePetris down and felt a hard object in a pocket, which DePetris told him was a cellphone but turned out to be an ammunition magazine for an automatic rifle, which also was found in the truck.
As he was pulling the clip out of DePetris’ pocket, Stack felt another object, which turned out to be a Beretta handgun hanging from a shoestring hung around the suspect’s neck.
Stack said after the shooting, a family member fingered DePetris as a suspect and said he could be found in a purple pickup. DePetris, who was living at Seneca Niagara Club as a member of its high-rolling Chairman’s Club, had come to police attention previously.
“There were complaints from other people at Electro-Dyne that he was shooting guns in the basement of the building,” Stack testified. He said he knew DePetris didn’t have a pistol permit as a result of that probe.
Defense attorney Key claimed that Viola at first couldn’t identify the man who shot him, but was prevented from questioning Stack about that by an objection from Hoffmann. “There was no probable cause to arrest him on the basis of that shooting,” Key argued.
Craig, according to Stack, granted him permission to search the vehicle
Stack quoted DePetris as saying, “Excuse me. I’m Tim DePetris. I’m the president of Electro-Dyne Corp. We’re just out looking for scrap metal.”