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Ogdensburg man gets 22 years to life in prison for murder conviction

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CANTON — An Ogdensburg man convicted of the drug-related murder of an elderly man in 2010 was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in prison.

Anthony W. Lalonde, 32, was found guilty May 7 of first-degree robbery and second-degree murder in the death of Ralph E. “Gene” Lawton, 83. He steadfastly denied any role in the crime and remained defiant even as Judge Jerome J. Richards warned him that he would never see freedom again unless he showed remorse.

Lalonde replied that he would “go to my cell every day with my head high knowing I didn’t do this.”

On Nov. 18, 2010, three masked men burst into Mr. Lawton’s upstairs apartment at 930 Ford St., Ogdensburg, allegedly demanding cash and prescription pills. A scuffle ensued, and according to trial testimony, the victim bled to death from a ruptured aortic aneurysm when he was struck and pushed to the floor and his roommate, Guy C. Bartlett, 64, fell on him. He apparently did not put up much of a struggle.

Lalonde was tried together with codefendants Michael D. Durand, 30, and Michael S. Thorpe, 26, also Ogdensburg residents, who were acquitted of the same charges for lack of evidence placing them at the scene.

In St. Lawrence County Court on Monday morning, Mr. Lawton’s daughter, Kathy Podolak, told of the great loss suffered by those who knew her father.

“He filled our lives with love, magic and fun to the envy of all of our friends,” Ms. Podolak said.

She said that on any given day her father would surprise the family by filling the pool with blow-up toys or kicking his shoe off to catch a fly ball during a softball game.

Addressing Lalonde, she said, “You took from us our father, father-in-law, grandfather, uncle and friend.”

The tearful testimony brought a somber tone to the courtroom, but did not bring any admission or remorse from Lalonde.

“I did not know Gene very well, but I knew of him,” Lalonde said to Judge Richards. “My heart goes out to his family, but I did not rob or murder Gene in any way.”

The judge said he bent over backward for Lalonde, letting him know the consequences of life imprisonment if he continued to deny his involvement in the drug-related robbery rather than accepting a plea deal of 18 to 22 years.

During the trial, forensic evidence produced by Chief Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen indicated that Lalonde’s DNA could not be excluded from a glove found in the kitchen.

At that time, Ms. Nissen said, a scientist from the state police crime lab in Albany testified that there was a one in 51.23 million chance of a random individual matching the DNA profile attributed to Lalonde.

“One of the most important pieces of evidence that we had in this case was that Mr. Lalonde’s DNA was found in the glove that was left behind at the scene,” Ms. Nissen said.

Testimony revealed no DNA evidence linking Mr. Durand or Mr. Thorpe to the scene.

In court on Monday, Judge Richards reminded Lalonde of that fact.

“You and I know that you were there,” Judge Richards said. “You can keep denying it and you can hang your hat on that and that is fine.”

If Lalonde hopes ever to spend time with his family and friends outside prison walls, Judge Richards told him, he would have to prove to the parole board that he is remorseful for the crime he still refuses to admit.

“Someday you are going to be a bitter, bitter man, when you realize that there is nowhere else to go but your cell every day,” Judge Richards said.

But before he was read his sentences of 22 years for the robbery charge and 25 years to life in prison for the murder charge, to be served concurrently, Lalonde said, “I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do because I’m scared of spending life in jail, not even after 10 years,” Lalonde said.

In addition to his sentence in state prison, Lalonde was ordered to pay $2,590 in restitution.

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