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Cold-Case Murder Solved With DNA Evidence


06/12/2012

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, III announced that 54 year old James Fountain pleaded guilty this morning before County Court Judge Michael D’Amico to Murder in the Second Degree, as charged.  This is the highest charge for which Fountain could have been convicted had he gone to trial. 

Fountain admitted that on or about June 30, 1994, at 142 Montana Street, Buffalo, he murdered 29 year old Cynthia Epps of 25 Colfax Street, Buffalo, by stabbing her.

On June 30, 1994, Fountain reported “finding” the body of Cynthia Epps stuffed into a side table next to his garage. Ms. Epps, who was wrapped in a blanket, had been stabbed multiple times and was nearly decapitated. An autopsy was conducted by the Erie County Medical Examiner and vaginal swabs were collected. Fountain denied any knowledge of or contact with Ms. Epps and cooperated in the initial police investigation. Neither Fountain nor anyone else was charged.

Detectives Charles Aronica and Lissa Redmond of the Buffalo Police Department Cold Case Squad, in consultation with Erie County Homicide Prosecutor Gary Hackbush re-opened the investigation in 2010.  The detectives learned that Fountain had a 1977 conviction, in Queens County, for Manslaughter in the Second Degree; that defendant had a 1984 conviction, in New York County, for Rape in the First Degree; that defendant had a 1996 conviction, in Erie County, for Attempted Rape in the 1st Degree; and, that the defendant was at the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, NY, having been placed in indefinite civil confinement. Because state law required that he submit a DNA sample, Fountain’s DNA profile was in the state DNA databank. When that profile was forensically compared to the DNA profile of sperm from the victim’s vaginal swabs, it matched that of Fountain.

The detectives re-questioned Fountain, who again denied having any contact with the victim and any knowledge of her death.  Fountain eventually confessed when confronted with the DNA results. Fountain admitted to repeatedly stabbing the victim after a sexual encounter. Fountain also admitted that he tried to sever the victim’s head and right leg in an attempt to more easily dispose of her body. 

Erie County Homicide Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable presented the evidence to an Erie County Grand Jury, who returned an indictment charging the defendant with Murder in the Second Degree. Today, Fountain pleaded guilty as charged and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment when he is sentenced before the Hon. Michael D’Amico on July 13, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.