National Roundup

New York
Lawyers: Witness to 1993 slaying pressured by ex-NYC detective

NEW YORK (AP) — A Brooklyn man convicted of a 1993 murder says in court papers his case’s sole eye witness was pressured by a scrutinized ex-detective.

Now attorneys for Shawn Williams want a new trial.

The New York Times reports Friday the witness has recanted her original testimony in a court filing.

Witness Margaret Smith initially said she saw Williams with a gun in his waist from her sixth-story window. She now says she only said so because the investigator, Louis Scarcella, pressured her.

Prosecutors are reviewing nearly 60 of Scarcella’s cases amid allegations he intimidated suspects and forced confessions. Six of them have been overturned.

But Prosecutors haven’t found he engaged in misconduct. And Scarcella denies any wrongdoing.

His lawyer tells the Times Williams’ new trial petition relies on inaccurate information.

Man charged in murder-for-hire scheme accused of new plot

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man charged in a murder-for-hire scheme has been accused of trying to hire someone to kill a state agent and two other witnesses expected to testify against him.

Authorities say 36-year-old Justin DeWitt, of North Liberty, was charged Thursday with three new counts of attempted murder. A court document says DeWitt met in jail with someone earlier this month whom he thought knew a hit man. The document says DeWitt agreed to pay $25,000 to have an Iowa Public Safety Department agent and two other people killed before his January trial in the first case.

He’s pleaded not guilty to four counts of attempted murder and four counts of solicitation to commit murder in that case. Authorities say he wanted a business associate and the associate’s family killed.

Trial slated for woman charged in father-son killings

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — The trial date for a Vermont woman accused of fatally shooting her ex-boyfriend and his son two years ago is slated for early summer.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports a Windham Superior Court judge said Tuesday that a tentative trial date in Robin O’Neill’s case could be June 11 through June 30. O’Neill’s lawyers have about 45 days to collect depositions from witnesses and experts.
The 63-year-old Townshend woman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in the deaths of 60-year-old Steven Lott and his son, 28-year-old Jamis Lott.

Police say Steven Lott and O’Neill had recently ended their relationship and had been living together at the time of the November 2014 shooting. Steve Lott was found dead in his home along with Jamis, who had been visiting.

Woman gets prison for role in husband’s death

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (AP) — A 69-year-old suburban Chicago woman who conspired to have her husband killed more than three decades ago has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Jacquelyn Greco wasn’t charged with the 1979 death of Carl Gaimari until 2013. She was convicted in October after her sister and one of her daughters testified against her at trial.

The Daily Herald reports a Cook County judge sentenced Greco on Thursday.

Gaimari was shot with his own gun inside the couple’s Inverness home. The shooter has never been charged.

Greco’s sister, Elsie Fry, testified at trial that before Gaimari’s death the women had discussions about killing him. She says Greco told her “We found a way to kill Carl.”

Inverness police persuaded Fry in 2013 to let them record the sisters’ conversations.

Woman pleads not guilty in fatal beating caught on Snapchat

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A woman accused with two men in the fatal beating of a Milwaukee man that was captured on Snapchat has pleaded not guilty.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports 20-year-old Sarah Zakzesky waived her right to a preliminary hearing Thursday and was bound over for trial.

Zakzesky and brothers 20-year-old Devin Katzfey and 19-year-old Branden Katzfey are charged as parties to first-degree reckless homicide in the death last week of 20-year-old Delvin Mendoza-Chaparro.

According to the criminal complaints, the victim had joined the defendants in smoking marijuana at Zakzesky’s apartment and they all fell asleep. When Devin Katzfey awoke, he thought Mendoza-Chaparro was trying to steal drug paraphernalia and began beating him.

The beating was recorded on the victim’s own Snapchat account. His body was found in an alley.

Mother confesses to children’s deaths in letter

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana woman accused of fatally smothering her two young children told a judge in a handwritten letter that she’s guilty and ready to accept life in prison.

Amber Pasztor, 29, of Fort Wayne, faces two counts of murder in the Sept. 26 killings of 7-year-old Liliana Hernandez and 6-year-old Rene Pasztor. The children were killed after being abducted from their custodial grandparents’ home.

Her attorneys are seeking to present a defense of mental disease or defect, saying they believe she cannot fully understand the legal proceedings or help prepare her defense. But in the letter, Pasztor said she was competent and would refuse to see another doctor for mental health evaluations.

“I made a lot of bad decisions in my life but this one really did it,” she wrote. “I am guilty and I accept my consequences thank you so much for your time.”

Pasztor has also admitted to fatally shooting her neighbor, 65-year-old Frank Macomber, and taking his car. She has not been charged in the death, but prosecutors have said she is a suspect. Investigators believe Macomber was shot the same day the children were killed. His body was found the next day in a wooded area near Fort Wayne.

Pasztor’s letter to Elkhart Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker was dated Dec. 14 but filed with the court last week, The Goshen News and The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reported.

Shewmaker made no ruling on the letter, but pushed Pasztor’s trial date from late January until March 20 so a second competency evaluation could be completed.

Pasztor said in an October jailhouse interview that she decided to kill her children after hearing an Amber Alert for them. She said she killed the children so they would be safe in heaven.