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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York

DNA results, defendant’s testimony dominate at Ogdensburg murder trial


CANTON — Thursday proved eventful for jurors in a St. Lawrence County murder trial.

First, they heard from a forensic scientist who said that DNA tests excluded two of three defendants from contact with a leather glove found at the crime scene, but that the third “could not be excluded.”

Ogdensburg residents Anthony W. Lalonde, Michael D. Durand and Michael S. Thorpe are charged with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the Nov. 18, 2010, death of Ralph E. “Gene” Lawton, 83, who lived at 930 Ford St., Ogdensburg.

Later, after lunch, jurors heard the prosecution formally rest its case, although Chief Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen is expected to present one final witness today.

Finally, the afternoon ended with Thorpe briefly on the stand, perhaps the only member of the trio who will testify. Lawyers for both sides said they could be finished with witness testimony today, with closing arguments expected Monday and the case heading to the jury after that.

Andrea Allard, a forensic scientist with the state police crime lab in Albany, testified Thursday about performing DNA examinations on evidence submitted to her office by Ogdensburg police.

A leather glove that police found on a kitchen chair in Mr. Lawton’s apartment has figured prominently in previous testimony.

Ms. Allard said DNA tests were performed on swabs taken from inside the glove’s fingers, as well as on fabric taken from its inner palm.

Genetic material from at least two people was discovered, she said.

However, finger-swab tests ruled out Durand and Thorpe as contributors to that DNA, Ms. Allard said.

The tests also ruled out Mr. Lawton; his roommate, Guy C. Bartlett, as well as Victor R. Gardner and Andrew C. Wells, two people linked by previous testimony to knowledge of plans to rob Mr. Lawton.

Among them, only Lalonde could not be ruled out. “I was able to determine that he could not be excluded as a contributor,” Ms. Allard said.

As for the palm test, Mr. Lawton, Durand and Thorpe were excluded, she said, but “I was unable to determine if someone could be included in the profile.”

Thorpe’s attorney, William John Galvin, asked whether a woman could have been among the DNA contributors. Ms. Allard said it was possible.

Under questioning by Durand’s attorney, Gary W. Miles, Ms. Allard also acknowledged that testing does not reveal when DNA came into contact with an object.

Another item tested by Ms. Allard was an ax handle police found around the corner, outside a Denny Street home. Investigators have said the masked intruders the night of the killing menaced Mr. Lawton and Mr. Bartlett with a wooden object. Ms. Allard said one of Mr. Lawton’s hairs was found on the handle, but other DNA on the item came from at least two donors, of whom Mr. Lawton and Mr. Bartlett could not be excluded.

Thorpe, 26, was called to the stand about 3:50 p.m., following testimony by a friend of Mr. Lawton and by Karen Durand, Thorpe’s ex-girlfriend and sister of suspect Michael Durand. Thorpe was questioned by his attorney, Lloyd G. Grandy II, for about 15 minutes, and cross-examined by Ms. Nissen for about 10 minutes.

Thorpe said that he called Mr. Lawton several times on Nov. 18, 2010, to set up a time to buy OxyContin from him that day, and that they had previously engaged in drug transactions.

Thorpe, then living at 807 Ford St., testified that he drove Ms. Durand’s car a block and a half to 930 Ford St. about 5:30 p.m. and went upstairs, where he saw Mr. Lawton and Mr. Bartlett eating pizza.

After talking about the pizza and a debt he owed Mr. Lawton, Thorpe said, he paid $40 for 40 milligrams of OxyContin, went home and then smoked the pill in his bedroom.

Thorpe said that he played no part in the planning or execution of any robbery, and that Michael Durand was at his and Ms. Durand’s apartment the whole time.

Mr. Miles said he did not intend to call any witnesses. Mr. Grandy will have a chance to call witnesses today; he declined to comment on whether Lalonde will take the stand.

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