Judge finds men guilty of deacon’s murder

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – After a non-jury trial, Shaquar Pratcher and Elhajji Elshabazz were convicted Wednesday morning of murdering Levi Clayton in State Supreme Court.

The judge determined Pratcher, 18, and Elshabazz, 24, are guilty of brutally beating the 96-year-old man after they broke into his Buffalo home. The World War II veteran and church deacon tried to ward off his attackers by throwing a lamp. The assailants pistol-whipped Clayon, who died four-and-a-half months later.

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita says Clayton’s dementia likely contributed to his death, but there were other factors at play.

“Also contributing was the fact that he had his entire face broken by these sociopaths. He had over a dozen fractures to his face. So to say that had nothing to do with his death, I think would be ridiculous,” he said.

Elshabazz’s defense attorney Joseph Terranova countered, “The expert testimony disagrees. We presented a gerontologist who testified that he reviewed the records and found factors that indicated that Alzheimer’s disease had taken the life of Mr. Clayton.”

In addition to the murder verdict, Elshabazz and Pratcher were found guilty of counts of burglary. Pratcher has an additional conviction of criminal possession of a weapon.

Terranova says he’s disappointed with the verdict and plans on filing for an appeal, especially because the judge took testimony from the accomplices over any witness. He also says some of the evidence, like a bloody glove and videotape, were inconclusive pieces of evidence.

“In my opinion, it was grainy [and] didn’t lend towards any kind of identification,” Terranova argued.

Relatives of the men left the courtroom sobbing. Pratcher’s brother, Shaquar Pratcher, says his brother is innocent.

“My brother, he’s innocent. He was the youngest. He’s a victim himself, and my friend Elhajji is a victim as well,” he said.

Elshabazz and Pratcher are due back in court for sentencing on May 14. They face up to 25 year to life in prison.

Ironically, the verdict came down on the same day Clayton died last year.

Sedita said, “Nobody should have to go through something like this. Especially someone towards the end of their life and in the safety and sanctity of their home. What happened to Mr. Clayton, I think is the nightmare of so many of our senior citizens.”

Two other men charged in connection to this case, 20-year-old Jordan McKinnon and 19-year-old Justice Feegans, pleaded guilty to robbery charges. They face up to 15 years behind bars and will be sentenced May 1.

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