Tonawanda News

January 15, 2014

NT: Marchant guilty of manslaughter

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A North Tonawanda woman was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter Wednesday in Niagara County Court for killing her boyfriend last year in her Oliver Street apartment. 

Jennifer R. Marchant, 24, will now spend up to 25 years in prison when she is sentenced on March 26, one year after she was freed on $100,000 bail for stabbing Ralph D. Stone once in his chest. 

After nearly two hours of deliberation Tuesday, it took only minutes Wednesday for the jury of 10 men and two women to render a decision. Marchant was handcuffed and remanded to Niagara County Jail following the verdict.

The six-day trial included the testimony of three police officers who entered Marchant's second-floor apartment the evening of Feb. 6, moments after she stabbed Stone, who died in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor shortly after their arrival. 

Witnesses said Stone and several friends began partying in Marchant's apartment at 2:30 p.m. that day. Toxicology reports showed his blood alcohol content was 0.285 at the time of death. 

Marchant, who under the name "Scarlett Rouge" spent time performing Internet pornography, had admitted to grabbing a knife from a butcher block in her kitchen and inflicting the wound, but said it was in self-defense, claiming Stone chased her around the apartment, breaking through locked doors and twice aggressively pulling her hair. 

But the claim was not enough to prevent the conviction, which was at least in part based off the jury's decision that Marchant did not face the possibility of deadly bodily harm, a key factor in a first-degree manslaughter charge.  

Her attorney, Dominic Saraceno, said the verdict was the result of weak domestic violence laws in New York state compared to those in places like Florida, where the stand your ground law may have negated the manslaughter charge. 

"You don't have the same set of laws," he said. "In New York you have to work to prove you were going to be killed." 

Marchant was initially facing a single count of murder though that charge was later reduced by a grand jury to two counts of manslaughter. 

Niagara County Deputy District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann on Monday moved to dismiss one of those counts, a second-degree manslaughter charge, because there was not enough evidence that the Stone's death was an act of recklessness. 

During closing arguments Tuesday however, Hoffmann cast Marchant as the aggressor in Stone's demise, noting that when police arrived to a grisly scene, the door to the apartment was open, leaving Marchant the opportunity to escape rather than using deadly force to subdue a drunk Stone as he pulled her hair in the bathroom. 

Saraceno said blood spattered on the back of the bathroom door showed the door was closed when the incident took place, which fell in line with accounts given by Marchant to North Tonawanda police detectives as they interviewed her two hours after Stone's death. 

Hoffmann had offered Marchant a plea deal in August that would have capped her sentence at 15 years. Saraceno said he will push Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas to sentence Marchant to five years, the minimum in New York state for a first-degree manslaughter conviction.