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Jurors on Thursday convicted Ali-Mohamed Mohamud of second-degree murder for beating to death his 10-year-old stepson, a crime so brutal that seasoned homicide detectives and prosecutors called the case one of the worst they had ever seen. After duct-taping a sock in the boy's mouth and binding his hands with electrical cord, the 41-year-old security guard struck Abdifatah Mohamud nearly 70 times with a baker's hardwood rolling pin. The stepfather inflicted “devastating blow after devastating blow” on the 4-foot, 11-inch boy, who weighed just under a hundred pounds, separating the boy's head from his spinal cord and crushing the back of his head, exposing his brain, according to court testimony. “Justice has been done,” prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty said after the verdict, reached after three hours of jury deliberations. The fifth-grader at International Preparatory School had tried to run away from his Guilford Street home April 17 after arguing with his stepfather about homework. But the boy could not escape. After his mother came home from her evening shift at work and reported him missing, a police officer found his bruised and beaten body in a pool of blood on the basement floor. The medical examiner counted injuries on every part of the boy's body, and found four of the blows to be lethal. Any one of them would have killed the boy, who was called Abdi by friends and family. “A person who should have been his protector was instead his murderer,” Finnerty said to jurors during his closing argument. “Doing this to anyone is so inhuman, so wantonly cruel, but doing this to an utterly defenseless 10-year-old boy, less than a hundred pounds, his own stepson, who had referred to his murderer as 'Dad?' ” The sock taped into the boy's mouth slowly suffocated him as he began to vomit after being struck in the head, Finnerty said. The boy could not even scream in pain or cry. Some parts of that terrible night were not revealed during the four-day trial. While Mohamud confessed and described to police the beating, his statement did not explain the knife wound to the boy's arm, the ligature marks or the evidence of near-drowning that the medical examiner found. “All we're left with is hoping – hoping that somehow he lost consciousness somewhere closer to the beginning of the assault than to the end,” Finnerty said. But that's doubtful. The extensive bruising on the boy's body indicates he was alive for much of the beating, Erie County Chief Medical Examiner Dianne R. Vertes testified. Defense lawyer Kevin Spitler said he was disappointed by the verdict. “It's a very sad and tragic case,” said Spitler, who, with attorney Lana V. Tupchik, defended Mohamud. State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns denied the defense's request to allow jurors to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter. Burns also decided against allowing jurors to consider “extreme emotional disturbance” as a possible defense. While Mohamud admitted to police that he killed his stepson, Spitler said, prosecutors did not prove the other element of the case needed to win a murder conviction, that he intended to kill him. So intent emerged as the defense lawyer's central point to jurors during his closing argument. “Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not standing here telling you that Mr. Mohamud didn't hit his son on April 17,” Spitler told jurors. “And I'm not standing here telling you that he didn't put tape over his mouth or put a sock in his mouth. I'm not telling you he didn't perform the acts that the [crime scene] video displayed or the [police] photographs displayed. “What I am telling you is he did not do it intentionally,” Spitler said. “It was not his conscious objective or purpose to cause his son's death. He was acting so out of character that he could not have been acting intentionally.” Mohamud lost control that evening, Spitler said. Mohamud met Abdi and his Somali-born mother, Shukri Bile, just two weeks after they arrived in the United States from a Ugandan refugee camp in 2004. After Mohamud and Bile married, Mohamud treated his stepson “like his own son,” Spitler said. “We know that Mr. Mohamud is a nonviolent man,” he said. “He is a quiet man, a respectful man.” Bile had testified she never saw Mohamud strike the boy. He attended Abdi's parent-teacher meetings. During the evenings, while Bile worked at her janitorial job in Ellicott Square, Mohamud saw to it that Abdi completed his homework, Spitler said. “We know from testimony that Mr. Mohamud had a strong belief in education,” Spitler said. He was always on Abdi to do his homework and study, Spitler said. And he considered his stepson to be bright and envisioned him as a scientist one day. Mohamud valued education as a way to ensure a bright future for Abdi, Spitler said. “Why did he lose control?” Spitler asked. “He just wanted his son to succeed. He just wanted his son to be ready for that state-mandated test. He just wanted his son to do his schoolwork. He just wanted him to be educated.” A good reason to become enraged at the boy? No, Spitler said. But it is not the reason that mattered in the murder trial. It is intent, the defense lawyer said. “He never meant to kill him,” Spitler said. Spitler called Mohamud “a kind, considerate, patient, understanding, diligent, hardworking intelligent man.” ”He wished only the best for his sons,” Spitler said. “He believed hard work was how you achieved success. And so how can such a good man, between 5:30 and 9 o'clock at night, on April 17, 2012, act so differently?” He just lost control, Spitler said, after the boy tried to run to the West Side. Finnerty, the prosecutor, reminded jurors of the nearly 70 “separate, distinct blows to that young and little body, by one intentional act after another, after another.” “Intent to cause death? How about intent to slaughter,” Finnerty asked. Abdi was “tied up, gagged, slowly being suffocated … seeing, hearing, feeling his life being taken from him, blow by blow by devastating blow,” he said. Finnerty scoffed at Spitler's description of Mohamud and told jurors not to be concerned with it. “You don't get a free pass for murder just because at some other point in time someone said you're nice, you're kind, you're generous, whatever,” Finnerty said. “Are you kidding? Could that possibly be a defense for murder?” Neither was the prosecutor impressed with Mohamud's appreciation for education. “So I guess the argument goes something like this,” Finnerty said. “He really cared about education. Abdi had a big test coming up. Abdi wasn't studying as much as the defendant thought he should be, he wanted to play and watch TV instead. “So the defendant got really, really mad, and excusably, understandably, tied him up, gagged him, suffocated him, stabbed him, strangled him, tried to drown him and relentlessly beat him to death. But he cared about education and Abdi wasn't studying, so he should get a free pass for all of that.” Don't buy it, the prosecutor told jurors. Abdi was well-liked at school and received A's and B's on his report card, his family said. And he liked watching cartoons and playing video games like other boys his age. “This man took away everything Abdi was and everything Abdi was ever going to be,” Finnerty said. “It's time for justice for Abdifatah. It's time for justice for his family. And it's time to give the defendant what he is due.” Mohamud could face 25 years to life in prison when sentenced Nov. 15. email: plakamp@buffnews.com