Schenectady County

Murder suspect may get plea deal

A city man accused of murder in the fatal stabbing of an acquaintance in 2007 during an argument may

A city man accused of murder in the fatal stabbing of an acquaintance in 2007 during an argument may plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Authorities on Tuesday filed one count of first-degree manslaughter against 33-year-old Joseph Bell Jr.

Bell still faces the original count of second-degree murder, officials said. But the move is the first step toward a potential guilty plea to the lesser count, Bell attorney Steve Signore said.

Bell is accused of stabbing 23-year-old John J. McKeraghan on Oct. 25 at 530 Summit Ave., during an argument.

The offer on the table carries a 22-year prison sentence. It was unclear if a judge had been presented with the deal. A judge would have to review and sign off on the plea arrangement before it could become final.

The deal came about after negotiations with the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office. It was agreed, Signore said, that manslaughter would be more appropriate,

“This was not premeditated. He did not leave and come back,” Signore said. “This was just an impulsive, reactive response to a situation, though I’m not trying to mitigate it by any means.”

The case is being prosecuted by Philip Mueller, who declined to comment Tuesday, other than to confirm that both the murder and manslaughter charges are now pending.

Relevant to the plea negotiations, Signore said, was Bell’s mental state at the time. Bell suffers from mental health problems, his attorney said, though they may not have risen to an insanity defense.

Defense investigators gathered Bell’s prior medical history and used that to help argue for the lesser charge, Signore said.

The final outcome may not be much different from the murder charge, with the important change of the possibility of life in prison. Bell faces a maximum of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted on the murder charge. First-degree manslaughter has the maximum of 25 years, but not a life sentence.

McKeraghan was stabbed on the rear porch at 530 Summit Ave. in a dispute with Bell, apparently over a woman’s care, police said.

The woman had suffered a seizure, something McKeraghan had seen before in their several years together.

McKeraghan refused to help move her inside. That escalated into an argument with Bell, witnesses said. The two had had confrontations before.

They fought and McKeraghan finally told Bell to “Bring it, bitch.”

Bell, the boyfriend of the woman’s sister, went into the apartment, grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed McKeraghan in the back, according to papers filed in court.

McKeraghan lived in both Schenectady and Norwich, Chenango County. He had family in Norwich, those who knew him said.

In Schenectady, he had no permanent address. Recently, he lived in a van behind 530 Summit Ave., police said.

Bell remains held at the Schenectady County Jail without bail.

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