BY APRIL AMADON
BUFFALO — The man accused in the September killing of a 22-year-old Town of Lockport man took a guilty plea Monday morning, just as jury selection was beginning for his murder trial.
Thomas Montgomery, 48, of East Grand Boulevard, Cheektowaga, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, admitting he shot co-worker Brian Barrett, as Barrett sat in the driver’s seat of his pickup in the parking lot of the Dynabrade Corporation on Sheridan Drive in Clarence.
In State Supreme Court on Monday morning, Montgomery told Justice Penny Wolfgang that he intentionally shot Barrett through the window of the pickup, causing his death.
The plea carries a 20-year minimum sentence. Wolfgang said he faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 29.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said Assistant District Attorney Frank Sedita discussed the plea with the family before agreeing to it.
In this case, the plea spared the family from having to go through a difficult trial, Clark said.
“In situations like this, you deal very closely with the family,” he said “When an arrangement can be reached where you have a finality of a plea ... I think the ends of justice are best served.”
Had Montgomery been found guilty at trial, he faced 15 to 25 years in prison, Clark said.
“The 20-year definitive sentence is right in the middle of that range,” he said. “I think it satisfied everyone’s needs.”
Montgomery rejected the same plea July 20, but may have changed his mind after a key piece of evidence surfaced.
Clark said investigators found a peach pit at the crime scene, not far from the body.
Though Montgomery refused to give a DNA sample to investigators, he asked for a can of Mountain Dew during an interview with them. After he drank the soda, he left the can behind, giving investigators a saliva sample to work from.
COURTS: Thomas Montgomery pleads to first-degree manslaughter of Pendleton man, faces 20 years in prison
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