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Officer says he warned murder suspect about DNA link to death

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CANTON — Jurors in a St. Lawrence County murder trial heard Wednesday how an Ogdensburg police officer warned one suspect during a 2011 conversation that investigators could connect him with the scene.

Lt. Harry J. McCarthy testified that he spoke with Anthony W. Lalonde in March 2011 during investigation into the Nov. 18, 2010 death of Ralph E. “Gene” Lawton, 83, who lived at 930 Ford St. in the city.

Lt. McCarthy said he told Lalonde that investigators had new information, that District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé was prepared to indict him for second-degree murder and that it was his “last chance” to tell police what had happened.

“You’re saying I was there,” Lt. McCarthy said Lalonde replied.

Lt. McCarthy said he told Lalonde that there was DNA evidence.

“My DNA was on Gene because I shook hands with him that day,” Lt. McCarthy said Lalonde replied.

Testimony began April 18 in the trial of Lalonde, Michael D. Durand and Michael S. Thorpe, who are facing charges of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Prosecutors say the trio, wearing masks, burst into the apartment in search of drugs and money. Mr. Lawton died, allegedly from injuries suffered in the ensuing scuffle. Investigators have said the masked intruders menaced Mr. Lawton and his roommate, Guy C. Bartlett, with a wooden object.

Police obtained DNA samples from all three men, with Ogdensburg Police Lt. Andrew D. Kennedy testifying Wednesday that DNA kits were among several items of evidence he shipped to the state police crime lab in Albany on Dec. 14, 2010.

It was not immediately clear to what DNA evidence Lt. McCarthy was referring in his conversation with Lalonde.

Ogdensburg Police Detective Sgt. Robert H. Wescott was cross-examined Wednesday by the defense about physical evidence. Under questioning by Durand’s attorney, Gary W. Miles, he testified that while police took the defendants’ DNA and had Mr. Lawton’s clothing tested, police did not take DNA from Mr. Lawton’s roommate, Guy C. Bartlett, nor from two women who testified that they entered the apartment as three masked robbers were running out.

Det. Sgt. Wescott testified Tuesday about finding an ax handle around the corner outside a Denny Street home. Thorpe’s attorney, William John Galvin, asked Wednesday whether he had asked the people who lived there about the object, or whether a police K-9 officer that had been used to sniff a glove found in the kitchen also was prompted to sniff the stick to associate it with the glove.

Det. Sgt. Wescott said neither had been done.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen said she has two more witnesses to call, and a five-minute 911 call recording to play, and could be finished presenting the prosecution’s case today.

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