LOCKPORT – The prosecution rested its case Monday in the Niagara County Court manslaughter trial of Jennifer R. Marchant, and the case could go to the jury today.
Defense attorney Dominic Saraceno had said he was leaning against putting Marchant on the witness stand, but he was planning to discuss the issue with her Monday night.
However, in a sense Marchant did testify, as the jury saw a two-hour video of her interview with North Tonawanda detectives about the stabbing death of her boyfriend, Ralph D. Stone Jr., 24, on the night of Feb. 6.
Marchant, 24, asserted that she killed Stone in self-defense because he was highly intoxicated and “really scary.”
If the jury accepts the self-defense claim, Marchant will be acquitted. If not, she faces charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Monday, Dr. Tara Mahar of the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that Stone’s blood alcohol level was “elevated.”
She said that a blood test during the autopsy the day after Stone was killed showed a blood alcohol reading of .285 percent, which is more than 3½ times the legal threshold for a driving while intoxicated charge.
Marchant’s blood alcohol content was measured at 0.06 percent, below the intoxication standard, during her police interview.
Also Monday, neighbors of Marchant’s in her apartment building on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda testified that they heard the couple screaming at each other minutes before the slaying.
Bessie Fitzgerald, who lived across the hall, and her boyfriend Joshua Snyder heard Stone shouting “Get the (expletive) out of my house!”
They said they heard Marchant screaming back, “Please don’t do this to me!”
Fitzgerald said she had been outside smoking about 10 minutes before, when Marchant and Stone got out of a car. She said, “They were just talking and laughing.”
But Marchant told police they had just come from a bar, where she and her friend Stephanie Dee decided Stone had to be taken home because he was drunk. When they proposed that to Stone, he allegedly accused Marchant of wanting to be in the bar alone to pick up other men.
After the return to the apartment, Marchant told police, Stone was texting someone on his cellphone, and she asked if he was texting another woman.
That set off the fatal confrontation, in which Marchant said she tried to lock herself in the bathroom, but Stone broke the lock off the door.
Detective Edward Smolinski testified Monday that he saw broken locks on the bedroom and bathroom doors, and Detective Robert W. Kalota said the glass in Stone’s phone was smashed.
Marchant said she ran out of the bathroom and through the kitchen, grabbing a steak knife on the way, and ended up back in the bathroom, where she stabbed the unarmed Stone, allegedly as he was pulling her hair and taunting her, “Stab me. Be the boss. Stab me.”
Saraceno challenged Mahar’s conclusion that the 4½-inch-deep knife wound that ruptured Stone’s pulmonary artery was the cause of death. Saraceno said the blood could have been clotting and the clot might have been disturbed when Stone lunged at Officer Timothy Sylvester, the first policeman on the scene. The officer took Stone to the floor and said he went limp immediately thereafter.
“I’m not persuaded by that argument at all,” County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said Monday in rejecting Saraceno’s contention as a reason to dismiss the charges.