Tonawanda News

January 11, 2014

Details emerge in manslaughter trial of NT woman

By Michael Regan michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The hours leading up to the death of Ralph D. Stone became more clear on Friday in Niagara County Court following the testimony of several witnesses, while the jury also saw a video of a two-hour interview between police detectives and the person who killed him, Jennifer R. Marchant. 

Marchant, 24, who is facing two counts of manslaughter, was interviewed by North Tonawanda Police Department detectives in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, less than two hours after police were first sent to her Oliver Street apartment. 

In the video, which was recorded in an interrogation room at the department, Marchant told the authorities that Stone, her boyfriend since May 2012, was heavily intoxicated and had physically harmed her the night of Feb. 6 and two other times throughout their nine-month relationship. 

In the interview that began at 12:40 a.m., Marchant also told police that Stone and several of his friends had spent much of the day drinking in the apartment - where she said she lived alone - without her permission and while she was supposed to be at work.  

After leaving her apartment the morning of Feb. 6 and skipping work at an Amherst collection agency, she watched movies at the Niagara Falls home of her friend, Stephanie Dee. Sometime between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., Stone and Marchant communicated via cell phone, when he told her that he was “partying” at her apartment. 

During testimony Friday, Dee told the court that while Marchant was initially “irritated” the two eventually joined the party and participated in two rounds of the drinking game, beer pong, with Stone and his friends.

One of Stone’s friends, Ray Graney, whom Stone had met in an anger management class, also testified that Stone nearly became involved in a scuffle with a man at an Oliver Street convenience store that day.  

“I told him it wasn’t worth it,” said Graney, who was eventually forced to leave the apartment by Stone because he was passing out in a chair, according to testimony. 

Dee, Marchant and Stone then visited a North Tonawanda bar and drank two more pitchers of beer between the three of them, before Dee drove the couple back to the Oliver Street apartment because of Stone’s level of intoxication. Dee said she left the couple at approximately 10 p.m., about 30 minutes before the first 911 call was placed by Stone at 10:28 p.m. 

Once inside, according to Marchant’s interview with police, Stone and Marchant tussled over a text message, causing Marchant to attempt to grab his phone.

As the argument heated up, she went in the bedroom where Stone followed and tensions escalated. 

Marchant told police that in the minutes before Stone’s demise, he had pulled her hair during a room-by-room fight. She left the bedroom and latched the door of another room, and Stone broke through it. 

It moved to the kitchen, where Marchant said she grabbed a red-handled knife with a six-inch blade from a butcher’s block and escaped to the bathroom, leaning up against a closed door. Moments later, she said, Stone burst through it and began pulling her hair yet again.  

“‘Go ahead and be a boss, stab me,’” Marchant said Stone told her that night. “‘Then he pulled my head back one more time. And then I stabbed him.”

As police arrived, Stone collapsed on the kitchen floor. 

Throughout the interview, Marchant sporadically burst in to tears. At 2:46 a.m., when it ended, the detectives told her she was being charged with murder, a charge that was eventually reduced to two counts of manslaughter. In the interrogation room, Marchant finished her cigarette and the three exited the room, the video showed.  

The trial will continue on Monday.