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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Second teen pleads guilty in golf club murder


    Her attorney says Amber McNally faced two very bad choices in a dark Falls alley last November.

    As a result, she’ll face up to 10 years in state prison for her guilty plea to a charge of first-degree robbery.

    She is the second Cataract City teen to plead guilty to charges in connection with the beating death of John E. Smith.

    Wearing a khaki prison jumpsuit and handcuffed and shackled, the tiny 17-year-old at first appeared timid and spoke in a very soft voice as she answered questions from Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

    When Sperrazza asked her why she dropped out of school in the 11th grade, McNally said, “”I just didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to hang out with my friends.””

    The teen told the judge she lived in a Stephenson Avenue home with her father. When the judge asked why her father wasn’t in the courtroom Tuesday morning, McNally had a simple answer.

    “”He’s incarcerated,”” she said quietly.

    It was life on the streets, her lawyer said, that put her in the 500 block alley between 22nd and 23rd Streets, from Ferry Avenue, around 10:25 p.m. Nov. 8 with Gary Llamas andJames Hardeman. The three teens were there to meet Smith.

    “”She was requested by (Llamas and Hardeman) to have sex for money,”” defense attorney Thomas Eoannou said. “”She was in a really tight spot. She had two options at that point, sex against her will or participate in a robbery. She chose to participate in the robbery.””

    Eoannou said the teens were looking for money to buy drugs.

    Police discovered Smith’s body a short time later after a 911 call from a motorist who had turned into the alley and saw Smith’s body lying there. The responding officers found Smith collapsed and bleeding from the head, almost behind his house.

    The head of a golf club, that he had been beaten with, was recovered at the crime scene.

    Smith, 46, 518 23rd St., was rushed to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where his condition was stabilized and he was then transferred to the Erie County Medical Center. He clung to life there for almost 22 hours before succumbing to his injuries.

    In a statement to police, Llamas described the attack, telling detectives, “”(Smith) turned away from me and started walking. I hit him in the back of the head, he started to fight back, he hit the ground. I stomped on him. (I) pulled a golf club, which I had in my sleeve, and hit him several times with it. He was just out, I could hear him snoring.””

    Sperrazza asked McNally what her plea was to the robbery and beating of Smith. McNally replied, with a sigh, “”Guilty.””

    “”And as a result of the beating John Smith took from Gary and James, what happened,”” the judge asked McNally.

    “”He died,”” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.

    “”Yes, he died,”” Sperrazza said.

    In addition to the robbery charge, McNally had also faced a charge of second-degree murder before her plea. Sperrazza agreed to cap a possible prison term at 10 years.

    McNally could be sentenced to a minimum of five years behind bars.

    “”I’m going to fight like hell for less (than 10 years),”” Eoannou said.

    While not entirely agreeing with Eoannou’s description of McNally’s situation the night of the murder, Deputy District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann said the teen admitted her involvement to investigators.

    “”She indicated the robbery was her idea,”” Hoffmann said. “”(But) I think the court took into consideration that she did not participate in the actual beating.””

    Llamas, 19, 1773 Falls St., took a deal with prosecutors last week that saw him plead guilty to a single count of first-degree manslaughter. He had faced two counts of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree robbery and one count of tampering with physical evidence.

    Sperrazza has indicated she would sentence him to between 20 and 25 years in prison.

    Hardeman, 17, 1640 Falls St., is expected to take the same deal Llamas took when he appears in court on Friday. He currently faces two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery.

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