BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A Town of Tonawanda man, accused of killing his wife, was back in court Friday to face a judge.
Prosecutors say Jose Ruiz, 50, strangled his wife earlier this month at their home on Tillotson Place. Police found the body of 59-year-old Mavilie Ruiz after doing a welfare check at the house.
Ruiz was arraignment after being indicted for one count of murder in the second degree for the December 9th incident.
Ruiz was initially charged with manslaughter, but following his arraignment, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says after “flushing out” new evidence in this case, the charge was changed to murder.
“The main, new piece of evidence is mainly from the autopsy report – which shows that he allegedly straggled his wife,” Flynn stated.
Flynn says other evidence prosecutors will be presenting in this case include body cam footage from both Tonawanda and Buffalo Police and a 9-1-1 call Ruiz made to police to report the incident.
The woman’s death initially started as a ‘suspicious death’ at the couple's home. Tillotson is located between Englewood and Kenmore Avenue, along the city of Buffalo border involving both police agencies.
In court the prosecution handed over evidence to the defense. The prosecutor saying the “evidence is strong”
“After the defendant allegedly beat and strangled his wife – the defendant called 9-1-1 to report a crime and admitted to striking the victim in his interviews with the Town of Tonawanda Police detectives.”
Ruiz kept his head down during his court appearance and pleaded not guilty. One of his defense attorneys, Brian Parker told reporters they will begin reviewing the evidence.
"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 are looking forward to reviewing," Parker said. "We have too look at everything that has been turned over."
Prosecutors also stated in court Ruiz has a "substantial criminal history with three past felony convictions, which included a
1991 manslaughter Westchester County. The District Attorney said Ruiz served more than 20-years in prison and was released sometime in 2013 or 2014 and had just completed his five years of parole.
The next court hearing is February 28th. The judge set a trial date of April 27, 2020.
Ruiz's death was the 12th domestic violence homicide of 2019.
DA Flynn said it has been a “very disturbing year” for domestic violence deaths. Numbers released by his office say the 12 deaths this year in Erie County compare four in 2018 and three in 2017.
“It’s horrifying. It's absolutely horrifying,” remarked Mary Murphy, CEO, Family Justice Center in Buffalo.
Murphy says domestic violence is happening in every segment of society.
“To date, just this year is unspeakable. It is a public health crisis. And I think the critical piece of information that people need to understand is it's so common,” explained Murphy.
District Attorney Flynn says there were no previous domestic violence incidents reported to police.
“So sometimes it goes right to homicide, other times there is years – months of incidents that lead up to a tragic incident,” Flynn said.
Murphy says all other domestic violence murders from the past year in Erie County had "red flags" of domestic abuse.
“I do think, for whatever reason in our society today, that control freaks are feeling powerful and embolden to continue the control and that's what's happening,” declared Murphy.
Anyone in an abusive relationship can call the family justice center's 24-hour hot line at 716-862-help.