Guilty plea in Rockett murder

·4 min read

Oct. 6—A Town of Porter man, who twice had his trial for the murder of his stepfather delayed after being found mentally incompetent, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a two-count grand jury indictment.

Gregory Roy, who had been found mentally competent to stand trial again in July, pleaded guilty to single counts of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the slaying of his stepfather, Rudy Ray Rockett Sr. Roy had been facing a November trial date before State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.

Niagara County prosecutors stressed that they had "no plea offer on the table" for Roy. But his defense attorney said Roy decided to plead guilty to all the charges he faced in return for a sentencing commitment from Kloch.

The justice told Roy that he would sentence him, in December, to a term of 15 years to life in prison for his murder plea and a determinate sentence of 15 years behind bars for his plea to the weapons count. Those sentences will be served concurrently, along with five years of post release supervision.

If Roy, 32, had gone to trial and been convicted on the murder charge, he faced a possible sentence of 25 years to life.

Rockett Sr., 64, was supposed to be returning to his California home in Redondo Beach on the night of April 29, 2018 when he disappeared. His wife reported him missing when it was discovered that he had failed to board his flight to Los Angeles after leaving to go to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport with his stepson, Roy.

Later that evening, two Niagara County Sheriff's deputies who had responded to Rocket Sr.'s summer home on Lake Road in the Town of Porter.to take a missing person's report, encountered Roy as he pulled into the driveway of the residence. Roy lived at the home with his mother and stepfather.

As Roy stepped from the car, the deputies said they noticed blood on the passenger side door of the 2006 gray Saab, which belonged to Roy's mother. A search of the vehicle led to the discovery of a handgun in the glove box.

A search for Rockett Sr. began the next day on April 30. That same day, sheriff's deputies and investigators returned to arrest Roy on a charge of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon for the gun they had found.

Prosecutors and investigators have maintained that Roy killed his step-father as they were driving to the airport. Roy's defense attorney, George V.C. Muscato, told reporters that his client fired the fatal shots "less than five minutes" after the ride started.

"There's no question of what he did," Muscato said.

The search for Rockett Sr. lasted almost three weeks and centered in the Southern Tier, based on data from Roy's cell phone.

On May 19, 2018, Cattaraugus County Sheriff's deputies and Erie County Sheriff's Office K-9 deputies located Rockett Sr.'s body in a heavily forested area in East Otto. Muscato said Roy was familiar with that area because he had gone hiking there in the past.

Muscato had argued that Roy had "gone off" his anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications for as long as three months prior to killing Rockett Sr. He also said that Roy had likely been experiencing a schizophrenic episode at the time of the murder.

Though Muscato had considered a so-called insanity defense in the case, he said the psychiatric evidence probably wasn't strong enough.

"All of the doctors that have seen him agree that he has schizophrenia," Muscato said. "But to what degree, did he understand what he did was wrong? That's the question."

Muscato said it's "very hard" to meet the requirements of an insanity defense under New York law, and the potential for a murder conviction, after a trial, was "too much of a risk."

Roy had been ordered back to a state psychiatric center in Rochester as recently as March, just 18 months after being released from that facility, following a previous commitment, after being deemed incompetent to stand trial.

In May 2019, then Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon found Roy not competent to stand trial. The judge ordered him committed to the Rochester Psychiatric Center for up to one year.

But after four months of treatment and a return to the use of the medications to treat his mental disorders, the two psychologists who had found him unfit to proceed to trial, reversed their opinions.

He was returned to Niagara County in October 2019 and his case moved through various pre-trial proceedings. Prosecutors had sought a trial date earlier this year as the state's courts begin to re-open after the COVID pandemic shutdown of teh courts.

However, in March, doctors found that Roy's mental health had deteriorated over the intervening 18 months and asked that he be returned to the Rochester facility for treatment. Kloch ordered that commitment, which lasted until July.

"The guilty plea today is hopefully the beginning of the healing for this family, who has been torn apart after Rudy Rockett's death," Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman said after the plea proceeding.

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