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Riverhead woman claims self-defense in stabbing death

A Riverhead woman was defending herself when she stabbed her boyfriend to death at her apartment two months ago, her attorney said Wednesday.

"It's very clearly a case of self-defense," Susan Menu of Riverhead, the attorney for Kianna Coach, said outside court after Coach's arraignment.

Police said Coach, 21, had been arguing with James Wheeler, 25, on Dec. 8 when she grabbed a knife and stabbed him in the chest. He died at a hospital 45 minutes later.

A Suffolk grand jury indicted Coach on a felony charge of first-degree manslaughter, meaning she is accused of intending to cause serious physical injury and a death resulted. She pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

The arraignment was attended by Coach's parents and other relatives. They declined to comment.

Police responding to a domestic disturbance call at Coach's apartment on East Main Street in Riverhead found Wheeler, also of Riverhead, lying on the ground outside.

Coach passed out and received medical attention after police took her into custody. "This is a tragedy for everyone," Menu said.

Coach had been charged with robbery six weeks before Wheeler was killed, Assistant District Attorney Caren Manzello said in court.

Coach was ordered held on $75,000 cash bail by State Supreme Court Justice Gary Weber. She is due back in court on March 1.

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