ADVERTISEMENT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Two men were convicted of murder Wednesday in the death of a 96-year-old church deacon, who was fatally beaten during a home break-in caught in part on surveillance cameras at his New York residence.

Shaquar Pratcher, 18, and Elhajji Elshabazz, 23, were among four men who set out to rob Levi Clayton's house in November 2012, believing Clayton's caretaker had money inside from drug sales, authorities said.

A New York Supreme Court judge convicted them of second-degree murder and burglary following a non-jury trial. Pratcher also was found guilty of weapons possession. Each faces up to 25 years to life in prison when they are sentenced May 14.

Surveillance cameras on Clayton's home captured the pair in the deacon's backyard with a knife and gun and the deacon throwing a lamp out a window trying to thwart the break-in, prosecutors say.

Clayton, a former World War II infantryman, died 4 months after sustaining a fractured jaw, broken nose and other injuries in the assault inside his Buffalo home.

Defense attorneys argued that Clayton's death was caused by Alzheimer's disease. But Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III disputed that explanation and cited "the fact that he had his entire face broken by these sociopaths."

Defense attorney Joseph Terranova also found fault with the prosecution's reliance on testimony from two other defendants, who pleaded guilty earlier to burglary.

"You don't want accomplices feathering their own nest and accusing other people and having the incentive to accuse other people simply to get a better deal," Terranova said outside the courtroom.

Those two Justice Feggans, 19, and Jordan McKinnon, 20 could receive up to 15 years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for May 1.