By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
LOCKPORT — A North Tonawanda woman who is accused of stabbing a man to death with a kitchen knife in February was arraigned in Niagara County Court on Tuesday, where she pleaded not guilty to two counts of manslaughter.
Jennifer Marchant, 23, was indicted last week on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter, for allegedly killing her boyfriend, Ralph D. Stone, 24, inside her Oliver Street apartment. The charges were reduced from the initial second-degree murder count levied by police when she was arrested.
Marchant will return to court for a pretrial hearing May 7 in front of Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas, when she will decide whether she will continue to be represented by the private law firm HoganWilig, which has represented her since her arrest.
Marchant was sent to Niagara Count Jail after the arraignment, where she was held without bail since police took her into custody. However, Farkas issued $100,000 cash or $200,000 property bail, leaving a chance for her temporary release.
Marchant’s attorney, Steven M. Cohen, said Stone’s death was the result of self-defense, the explanation his client has maintained since she was taken into custody.
“It remains the defense’s position that this is the quintessential case of self-defense,” Cohen said. “We’re learning more about the (incident) as time goes on and everything we’re learning adds credibility to the justification for self-defense.”
Cohen accused the Niagara County District Attorney’s office of withholding Stone’s autopsy report.
“We have advised the court that we want copies of the medical examiner’s report,” he said. “The district attorney’s office has continued to withhold that from us. Protecting confidential sources is one thing, shielding facts from the defense team is quite another.”
Family and friends of Stone, a man who had a lengthy arrest record, have characterized him as nonviolent. A close relative of the victim who did not wish to be identified said in an interview on Tuesday she was pleased with the evolution of the case.
“I feel good about this,” the person said of the manslaughter charges.
Marchant, who appeared in pornographic movies for several years prior to Stone’s death, was convicted twice of DWI since early 2012. Stone was arrested 11 times between 2006 and 2010, mostly on drug-related charges.
Those who knew Marchant and Stone said they had been involved in a quarrel the night of the incident, which sent police to the second-floor apartment, where Stone was found bleeding profusely. Police said Marchant used a six- to eight-inch kitchen knife to stab Stone once in the neck.
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.