Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 22, 2010

UPDATE: Teen takes plea in slaying of group home worker

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

— After more than a year of court appearances in the alleged murder of Renee Greco June 8, 2009, Robert J. Thousand took a plea deal to Class B felony first-degree manslaughter Tuesday morning in Niagara County Court.

After Thousand’s plea, prosecution then dismissed one count of third-degree burglary against co-defendant Anthony J. Allen that would have been tried separately from the defendant’s other four counts.

Thousand, now 18, of Rochester, faces 20 to 25 years in state prison and 5 years post release supervision as a commitment made from Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

Thousand’s attorney Joseph Terranova said if his client denied the plea offer, then he could have faced life imprisonment.

“We first discussed the plea four months ago with the DAs,” Terranova said. “It was in his best interest to go forward with a plea.”

In taking the offer, Thousand also agreed to cooperate with prosecution against co-defendant Anthony J. Allen, 19, also of Rochester.

Thousand was originally charged with three counts of second-degree murder.

Allen, who prosecution and police call the “ringleader” in the alleged murder, was charged with three counts of first- and second-degree murder.

Both were also charged with first-degree robbery for allegedly stealing Greco’s car keys and second-degree burglary for entering the East Avenue House office and stealing keys to the school’s van one day before the bludgeoning, detective Capt. Rick Podgers said.

Lockport police said they think the burglay sparked the

Thousand also said in court Tuesday, the taped statement he gave to Lockport police June 9, 2009 was the truth and prosecution said they will use that information at trial Aug. 23 against Allen.

The information of the statement made was not disclosed, but former detective John Yotter said at a hearing in December he audio taped a one-hour interview with Thousand who was “cooperative” in police’s investigation.

While the third-degree burglary charge was dismissed for Allen — because a separate trial would have been held Monday for it — Allen’s attorney E. Earl Key presented the fact he needed Dr. Charles Wetli of New Jersey, as his medical expert to contradict prosecution’s expert, Dr. James Woytash who will comment on DNA testing and Greco’s cause of death by blunt force trauma.

Sperrazza accepted Key’s request and put a $1,500 cap on Key’s funds for an expert at trial.

Key said he thinks his client’s chances at trial are good.

“A plea was offered, but was not acceptable,” Key said. “We think we have a good defense at trial.”

Key however would not release his defense strategy.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled 9 a.m. July 27 and trial will be held Aug. 23.

Contact reporter Britney Milazzo at 439-9222, ext. 6251.