A Falls man, charged in the slaying of a co-worker at the Niagara Metals scrap yard Thursday morning, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Friday morning.
Matthew H. Figura Jr., 35, entered his plea to charges of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon during a virtual appearance before Falls City Court Judge Diane Vitello. She ordered Figura jailed in lieu of bail of $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.
Figura is accused of killing a co-worker, Patrick DeLuca, but the motive for the slaying remains a mystery. Falls Police detectives questioned Figura Thursday evening, but afterward could only describe the killing as “senseless."
Investigators have privately suggested that “mental health issues” may have played a role in the tragedy.
Patrol officers first responded to a report of “a man shot” at 8:16 a.m. at the recycling business in the 4800 block of Packard Road. When they arrived, they found DeLuca, who had suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
DeLuca was declared dead at the scene.
According to police, DeLuca, 36, had been employed at Niagara Metals for "awhile." Figura was described as a recent hire at the business.
Criminal Investigation Division detectives immediately put out an attempt to locate order for Figura. Witnesses indicated that Figura had fled from the yard in a black Nissan Frontier with Virginia license plates.
Detectives said they first feared that Figura could have been heading to other parts of Niagara County including Ransomville, Cambria, Lewiston, and Lockport. Figura's parents live in Ransomville and Niagara County Sheriff's deputies reportedly put their home under surveillance.
Investigators also said, at the time, that Figura may have been headed to the Southern Tier or attempting to reach Pennsylvania. They said they believed he was “armed and dangerous.”
Around 1 p.m., a Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office captain reported that he had spotted Figura's pickup truck as he was leaving a meeting in the Erie County town of Sardinia. The captain, in an unmarked police vehicle, followed Figura until Erie County Sheriff's Office deputies and Arcade Police Department officers, in marked units, were able to pull him over.
Figura surrendered to the deputies and officers without incident. He was taken into custody and returned to the Falls.
Prosecutors indicted during his arraignment that Figura has a criminal record in both Texas and Tennessee.
In Nov. 2008, Figura was charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration and two counts of second-degree harassment. The charges stemmed from an incident where a woman told police she had been at Figura’s house, drinking tequila, when they started having sex.
The victim said Figura choked her, punched her and displayed a knife to her during sex.
After being arrested in that incident, Figura was reportedly "uncooperative" with officers during the booking process. Officers said they had to use pepper spray to subdue him.
A disposition to the charges in that case could not be immediately be determined.