March 24, 2019

Guilty plea in stabbing

Deal calls for four to 12 years in Cortland slaying

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Andrew Pilcher discusses a plea offer with his attorney, Luke Fenchel, Thursday morning in Cortland County Court. Pilcher later entered a guilty plea of second-degree manslaughter, a felony.

A man charged in an Aug. 29 stabbing in downtown Cortland accepted a plea agreement Thursday in Cortland County Court that will send him to prison for four to 12 years.

Andrew J. Pilcher, 32, of 6 Main St. pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, a felony, in the stabbing of Damian S. Grant of Cortland, an incident in which a judge said Grant was the likely attacker.

Pilcher was indicted Dec. 21 by a grand jury charges of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter and tampering with evidence, felonies, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor.

First-degree manslaughter is when someone intends to cause serious physical injury, but instead causes the death of that person and can bring a sentence of five to 25 years.

Second-degree manslaughter is when someone recklessly causes the death of another person.

The Cortland County District Attorney’s Office recommended a sentence of four to 12 years; Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell agreed. Pilcher made no statement beyond answering Campbell’s questions.

Cortland police said Pilcher stabbed Grant, of 10 Woodruff St., Cortland, once in the chest about 2:15 a.m. in a pocket park between 10 Main St. and 16 Main St. Court documents show an argument between Pilcher and Grant started over a cigarette.

Witnesses told police Grant and his girlfriend encountered Pilcher and his friends around 2:10 a.m. Aug. 29 at the pocket park.

Grant asked for a cigarette; Pilcher let him have a puff of one his girlfriend had been smoking.

Witnesses differ over what followed. One witness said there was no physical altercation before the stabbing; another said Grant was agitated and jumping around; a third said Grant was aggressive and trying to get Pilcher to fight.

Campbell noted during court Thursday that camera footage from Main St. showed that “Mr. Grant was likely the initial aggressor.”

After the stabbing, Grant walked north toward Groton Avenue, where medics from a TLC Emergency Medical Services ambulance found and treated him, although his heart had stopped. They took him to what was then Cortland Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

During a search of Pilcher’s residence, police found a black Tac Force folding knife in a kitchen island drawer that tested positive for blood.

Pilcher told police he punched Grant in the ribs with his key.

Pilcher has been in jail since Aug. 29 on $100,000 bail or $200,000 bond. Pilcher has been a tattoo artist for a decade, most recently at The Body Shop at 3 Groton Ave., but also at Sacred Art Tattoo and Piercing Studio, 83 Main St. He has also played bass in a rock band, taught at skateboard camps and as a teenager, raised money to equip Cortland’s skateboard park.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 18.

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