Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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August 4, 2010

HAPPENING NOW: Garcia pleads guilty in death of boyfriend

A woman accused of stabbing her live-in boyfriend to death last Christmas at their Hartland apartment pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to a reduced charge of Class E felony criminally negligent homicide.

Before the plea offer was accepted by Gwendolyn Garcia, 32, prosecution dismissed the defendant’s first-degree manslaughter and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon charges, which could have resulted in a maximum 25 year prison sentence.

She can now face up to 1 1/3 to four years incarceration and since she has already spent eight months in Niagara County Jail, defense attorney Michael W. McNelis said that time spent counts toward a prison sentence, which means Garcia can be paroled by next February.

“This is what Ms. Garcia wanted to do,” McNelis said. “She had a good chance at trial, but those chances outweigh a plea. You can never say what a jury can do.”

Defense’s strategy would have been to claim self-defense at trial, which would have started Monday.

Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Richards said Garcia told him: “If I knew this was going to happen, I would have let him hit me.”

McNelis said had the case went to trial, he would have offered a number of “unpleasant facts of domestic violence,” most of the reports coming from Monroe County.

Garcia was originally charged with second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, but was reduced to manslaughter in February after Garcia reportedly only intended to injure her boyfriend of four years, Randy R. Whitney, 38.

According to sheriff’s reports, Garcia called 911 immediately after stabbing Whitney in the chest with a kitchen-type steak knife. Dispatchers also said they talked Garcia through a CPR process in attempts to save Whitney’s life, but the victim was pronounced dead shortly later at Eastern Niagara Hospital-Lockport.

Family members of the victim were present in court."(The family) supported the plea deal in order to bring closure and it represented a complete abandoment of the defense of justification," Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said. Before a plea deal was made Wednesday, prosecutors wanted to offer a story from Whitney’s mother, Linda, that she saw her son throw a pepper at Garcia during a “playful” argument in 2006 and Garcia allegedly told him she could kill him for that.

Garcia is held in Niagara County Jail on no bail until sentencing 9:30 a.m. Sept. 29.

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

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