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By Mike Hudson

Foul play is suspected in a mysterious death last week at the historic Jefferson Apartments, sources close to the investigation told the Niagara Falls Reporter.

The body of Antoine Bradberry, 41, was discovered in his apartment on Aug. 23. An autopsy proved inconclusive, and police are currently awaiting a toxicology report, one source said. At this point, no one can be ruled out as a suspect, sources added.

Bradberry apparently had been beaten prior to his death, and surveillance cameras recorded suspicious activity at the apartment building around the time he died.

"Two young black women were buzzed into the apartment late Monday night or early Tuesday morning," the source said. "Later a black male with most of his face covered was also let into the apartment."

Homicide investigators from the Niagara Falls City Police Department have been put in charge of the bizarre case, which is believed to be drug-related.

Most homicides in the city can be linked to drug deals gone wrong, and other than the location, this one seems to be no different, sources said.

Bradberry, known as "Chip" to his family and friends, had been employed as program director by the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club. After receiving his associate's degree from Cazenovia College in 1990, he attended Niagara University, where he majored in business administration.

On Valentine's Day, 2007, he trademarked the name "Million Dollar Dreams Felony Nightmares" and "MDDFN" for a company that was to have manufactured a line of urban clothing products including caps, sneakers, sweatpants, t-shirts, sweatshirts and jewelry. The plan apparently went nowhere.

His attorney at the time, Steven S. Fox of Buffalo, was unavailable for comment at presstime. The Jefferson Apartments, 250 Rainbow Boulevard, is an eight-story, 96-unit Gothic Revival building erected in 1926, when Rainbow Boulevard was known as Jefferson Avenue. It was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in a 2006 ceremony held in its ornate lobby.

Like any old apartment building, the Jefferson has seen its share of death over the years, but as far as can be determined, Bradberry's is the first to be investigated by the Homicide Squad.

Most recently, the Jefferson has been notable for housing a number of Mayor Paul Dyster's somewhat transient department heads like City Administrator Donna Owens and former fire chief Roger Melchior. It is also home to Dyster-backed City Council candidate Alicia Liable.

In 2008, the Jefferson's owners -- Shawn Weber and Dave Giusiana -- received a $130,000 state grant to renovate several rooms in the building. Weber and Giusiana also own Wine on Third, a small saloon down Third Street from the Jefferson, which has benefited from nearly $400,000 in state and city grants and subsidized low-interest loans.

Criminal activity at the Jefferson has been relatively light, police records show. In November 2010, an attempted burglary was thwarted when the would-be burglar discovered his victim to be home at the time, and earlier this summer, several cars in the Jefferson's parking lot were the target of break-ins.

As is always the case when a mysterious death occurs in relatively posh surroundings, the Jefferson has attracted its share of morbid interest in the wake of Bradberry's death. Murphy's Cafe, a small coffee and sandwich shop located inside the building, may be just the place for the casual tourist to enjoy a cup of Espresso Doppio and an Albacore panini, served -- perhaps -- with a side of murder!

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 30, 2011