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Jerome Thagard remained silent Monday as a judge sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison, but his attorney insisted he did not kill Steven Northrup.

After sentencing, State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. ordered Thagard held here temporarily so that his defense team can prepare for his June trial in a Buffalo armed robbery last April 28.

Thagard, 17, of Philadelphia Street, was convicted Jan. 25 of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon for shooting Northrup last April 29 in a field off Isabelle Street in Riverside.

Northrup, 31, a real estate appraiser and the father of two boys, was talking to his former girlfriend when he was shot seven times with a 9 mm handgun. The fatal shot pierced his heart.

Thagard has been jailed since police the day after the shooting found him at Bennett High School. He did not testify or present any witnesses.

The judge imposed the maximum prison term as Northrup's friends plan a fundraiser Friday in the Club Indulge on Chippewa Street to pay for his tombstone.

Reading from letters penned by Northrup's mother and other relatives, Sean Macaluso, 30, the victim's cousin, denounced Thagard as a "monster" who will "burn in the fires of hell" for killing a "good man."

Defense lawyer John J. Molloy insisted "this case is not over" because he is sure that Thagard was falsely identified as the killer.

During the trial, Suzanne-Deanna Grover, 21, Northrup's former girlfriend, and two teen-age girls identified Thagard as the man dressed in a dark-hooded sweat shirt who walked up to Northrup in the field, asked Grover if she wanted him to shoot Northrup and opened fire without waiting for a response. No motive ever was established.

Grover is currently jailed and under indictment on charges of stabbing Lindsay C. Harmon, 29, in the right eye outside a Main Street nightclub early New Year's Day.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Northrup's mother said Grover knew her son would be in the field where he was slain because he always cut through that field to return home after work.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com