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Charges upgraded to murder in Town of Tonawanda domestic death

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A Town of Tonawanda man originally charged with manslaughter in the death of his wife now faces a second degree murder charge in the case.

Jose Ruiz, Jr. entered a not guilty plea Friday morning. He's accused of killing his wife, Mavilir Ruiz, in their Tillotson Place home December 9. It was believed previously by investigators that Mrs. Ruiz died of injuries after being struck by her husband.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn explained why his office pursued an updated indictment.

"The evidence we had at the time warranted only a manslaughter charge," he said. "But like I have with a lot of these cases, the investigation continues, we get the autopsy report, that may or may not change. In this case, it changed."

Flynn alleges the autopsy shows Mrs. Ruiz was strangled. That report, and a large number of other pieces of evidence, were turned over to defense attorneys Brian Parker and Ann Nichols.

Parker did not speak about Friday morning's proceedings, only to acknowledge he and Nichols had much to review in advance of the next scheduled hearing, February 28.

"The DA's office turned over voluminous discovery and there's a lot more to come still," he said. "There's going to be hours of body camera footage here, We don't have the autopsy report yet and the grand jury minutes are all things we're looking forward to reviewing."

Ruiz remains held without bail. Judge Kenneth Case noted a prior manslaughter conviction from out of town as part of his decision to keep Ruiz behind bars. Flynn, when asked about that manslaughter case, would not provide details.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.