Salamanca man sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for stabbing death

was sentenced Monday in Cattaraugus County Court to up to 25 years in state prison in the December stabbing death of a 22-year-old.

LITTLE VALLEY — A 23-year-old Salamanca man was sentenced Monday in Cattaraugus County Court to up to 25 years in state prison in the December stabbing death of a 22-year-old.

Brandon J. Francis, held in the Cattaraugus County Jail since he was extradited from Nevada in the case, was sentenced on one count of first-degree assault, a class B violent felony, stemming from the Dec. 8 fatal stabbing of Juwaan Holt, 22, of Buffalo, during a drug-related robbery.

Holt’s body was discovered Dec. 8 at 357 Broad St., in Salamanca. Francis was apprehended a day later more than 2,000 miles away in Henderson, Nev., located about 15 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Francis had fled there, flying out of Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, after the stabbing.

In addition to his prison term, Francis would face 5 years of post-release supervision if he is paroled. He originally faced counts of second-degree murder in the case.

Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori P. Rieman credited “the diligent investigations conducted by the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department and the Salamanca City Police Department” in closing the case against Francis.

On Sept. 5, Melinda Clark, 49, of Salamanca, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, an E felony in connection with helping Francis after the stabbing. Clark gave Francis a ride in her car and hid key pieces of evidence for him shortly after Francis killed Holt.

Rieman described Clark and Francis as friends and that her office had video surveillance footage showing Clark picking up Francis not far from the murder scene, and that it’s believed she then drove Francis to a relative’s house in Olean. Without Clark’s help, Francis then took the flight to Nevada, where his father lives, according to authorities.

While law enforcement was searching for Francis that weekend, they searched Clark’s Jimerson Road residence and found Francis’ clothes buried in garbage and a knife — believed to be the murder weapon — inside a box in the garage, Rieman said.

Sentencing for Clark is scheduled for Nov. 4.

(Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is jeckstrom@oleantimesherald.com.)