Falls police spent the day Friday in and around a Pierce Avenue home as part of an investigation into what sources have called "an infamous cold case" homicide.
Detectives with the Criminal Investigation Division, Crime Scene Investigation Unit and investigators with the Traffic Division's Crash Management Unit spent the day collecting evidence and conducting reconstruction mapping at the home at 1526 Pierce Ave.
Investigators could be seen loading up a transportable storage pod with material taken from the home.
Falls Police Superintendent Tom Licata declined to comment on the activity. Criminal Investigation Division commander, Detective Capt. Kelly Rizzo, did not return a call seeking information.
Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek also declined to talk about the 'ongoing investigation." But sources close to the investigation indicated to the Gazette that police were at the Pierce Avenue home because "significant progress had been made recently in a cold case."
Falls police and the Niagara County District Attorney's Office are known to be actively working on several high-profile cold cases, including the gang- and drug-related killing of Phil Bennett, the disappearance and murder of Regina Parmer and the linked dismemberment slayings of Loretta Gates and Terri Lynn Bills.
Early Friday evening, Falls police released a brief statement on the activity at the home.
"The Niagara Falls Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division and Crime Scene Unit are currently conducting an investigation at a private residence at 1526 Pierce Ave.," the statement read. "The investigation involves the property at that location and is in no way related to the current occupant of this residence."
The statement concluded, "At this time, there is no other information that will be released regarding this ongoing investigation."
The Pierce Avenue home has tries to both gang activity and a 2008 homicide.
On Sept. 5, 2008, Falls police, responding to a call of a disturbance just after 11 a.m. found Dorothy Joelle Banks slumped in the front seat of her car in an alley in the 1300 block of Ashland Avenue. Banks, 35, 1923 18th St., had been shot in the side and was rushed to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center where she died from her wound.
Investigators questioned several people who were acquainted with Banks, but began to focus on a report of a young man seen running from the area of the crime scene wearing a red hoodie.
“We had various sources tell us that just prior to the shooting, the victim had gone to 1526 Pierce Ave. and was looking to buy some cocaine,” then Detective Capt. Ernest Palmer said.
Banks, who had a history of drug- and prostitution-related arrests was reportedly a frequent customer at the Pierce Avenue home, which was described as a Bloods street gang controlled drug house. An 18-year-old Bloods gang member, DeQuana “Quanny” White, was hanging out at the house when Banks pulled up on Sept. 5, 2008.
“We also learned (from street sources) that DeQuana White got into (Banks’) vehicle at 1526 Pierce and left with her.” Palmer said.
By late evening on Sept. 5, 2008, Falls Police narcotics detectives and members of the Emergency Response Team raided the Pierce Avenue home, finding 11 people, ranging in age from 16 to 24 years old, inside.
“There was a potential for violence there based on the past activities of some of the people there,” Palmer said. “The narcotics detectives were looking for guns and drugs, we were looking for homicide information."
Police seized 43 small baggies of marijuana totaling 25 grams, a bottle containing 52 Darvocets, 500 milligrams of crack cocaine, along with two guns, a .22-caliber revolver and a .22-caliber rifle.
White, 18, 1529 North Ave., was eventually indicted and charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Banks. He has also been charged with first-degree assault in connection with a shooting incident that left both a 27-year-old man and a 4-year-old boy wounded in the 2200 block of Niagara Street on Aug. 31, 2008.
In July 2009, White was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for Banks' murder and the other shooting.
The Bloods member told Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, "I would just like to say that what I did was wrong, but I didn’t do it intentionally. Yes, I tried to rob her. I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life. I did what I thought I had to do to put food on the table for me and my mother.”
Murphy told the killer, "Maybe if you needed to put food on the table, you should have gotten a job instead of being in a drug gang.”
Two days after the Banks murder, the Pierce Avenue home was the scene of more violence.
Witnesses told police that a gold car with two men and a woman inside pulled up in front of the home and the driver stepped out with a rifle and fired two shots at a group of people standing outside. No one was hit or harmed during that incident.