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Twelve jurors seated in Ogdensburg murder case; testimony could start today

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CANTON — Twelve jurors have been seated in the murder trial of three Ogdensburg men, with testimony set to begin as early as this afternoon.

Investigators say Ralph E. “Gene” Lawton, 83, died after a scuffle during a robbery by Anthony W. Lalonde, Michael S. Thorpe and Michael D. Durand at Mr. Lawton’s Ford Street apartment in Ogdensburg on Nov. 18, 2010.

Jury selection began Monday afternoon, when more than 100 prospective jurors packed Courtroom C on the second floor of the St. Lawrence County Courthouse.

By about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the pool had been pared down to a panel of 12 after the last rejected candidates were dismissed. St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards told the newly sworn jurors that four alternate jurors must be selected before testimony gets underway.

The judge said he expected that process to be finished before lunch today, with opening arguments and the first prosecution witnesses tentatively scheduled for this afternoon.

Mr. Lalonde, then 31, of 1106 Ford St.; Mr. Thorpe, then 25, of 904 Elizabeth St.; and Mr. Durand, then 29, of 513 Elizabeth St., were indicted in June on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery following more than a year of investigation.

Mr. Lawton and his 64-year-old roommate, Guy C. Bartlett, were home when the trio allegedly entered the apartment, caused a scuffle that left Mr. Lawton mortally injured and then fled with more than $1,000 and prescription drugs.

Mr. Bartlett told the Times in 2010 that the assailants wore slit towels and a plastic Halloween mask to disguise themselves, initially leading him and Mr. Lawton to believe the three were pulling a practical joke when they entered the apartment.

Mr. Bartlett said the attackers did not beat Mr. Lawton to death, but during the struggle he was thrown into Mr. Lawton, a much smaller man.

An autopsy showed Mr. Lawton received numerous blows to the chest, and it appeared Mr. Lawton did not put up much of a struggle.

The trial is expected to last between two and four weeks.

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