A 30-year-old man pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in a virtual arraignment Friday in connection with a stabbing last month in Hempstead after a fight by a deli.
Prosecutors said Westley Witts, who is homeless, fatally stabbed a 39-year-old man shortly before 5 p.m. on March 7 after getting into a physical dispute with him in front of a North Franklin Street deli.
Authorities have identified the deceased as Julio Jesus Solano Alfonso of Uniondale, saying he also used the name Noe Alvarado.
The Nassau district attorney’s office said Witts stabbed Solano Alfonso once with “a large swordlike serrated knife,” after the fight between the strangers moved across the street from the deli to a parking lot.
But Witts’ attorney, Dana Grossblatt, said Friday that Solano Alfonso also had a knife that authorities later recovered and her client was acting in self-defense that day.
Solano Alfonso was the initial aggressor in the dispute and pulled out a knife after he and his friends came after Witts, according to the Jericho-based defense attorney.
“Mr. Witts was defending himself when Solano got stabbed,” Grossblatt added.
Prosecutors said Witts ran toward Main Street after he stabbed the Uniondale man and village police arrested him a short time later in a laundry business. The victim died at a nearby hospital, according to authorities.
“This was a completely senseless act of violence, and thanks to numerous 911 callers and quick police action, this defendant was apprehended quickly and will be held responsible for his actions,” Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Friday.
Via Skype videoconference, acting State Supreme Court Justice Terence Murphy presided over Witts’ arraignment on the indictment charging him with second-degree murder and a weapon offense.
Witts remains in jail custody.