CANTON Victor R. Gardner cried in the witness box Tuesday afternoon when asked how well he knew murder suspect Michael S. Thorpe.
My kids called him uncle Mike, Mr. Gardner told St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen, before going on to testify that the man he called Thorpey and his two codefendants spoke with Mr. Gardner about their role in an alleged Nov. 18, 2010 robbery and scuffle that left Ogdensburg resident Ralph E. Gene Lawton fatally injured in his Ford Street apartment a robbery Mr. Gardner said he was asked to help commit.
Mr. Thorpe and two other Ogdensburg residents, Anthony W. Lalonde and Michael D. Durand, are facing charges of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the case.
Mr. Lalonde, then 31, of 1106 Ford St.; Mr. Thorpe, then 25, of 904 Elizabeth St.; and Mr. Durand, then 29, of 513 Elizabeth St., are accused of causing severe injuries to Mr. Lawton that led to his death; an autopsy showed he received numerous blows to the chest.
Mr. Gardner, 29, formerly of Ogdensburg, was sentenced to a nine-year prison sentence in 2009 after admitting to his own role in numerous burglaries. He testified Tuesday that he was asked to participate, but had misgivings during a conversation about the plan at the Ogdensburg home of Mr. Lalondes brother, Michael Lalonde, earlier the same day.
I debated about it for a while. At the time I was addicted to OxyContin, and I needed the money, Mr. Gardner said.
Mr. Gardner said he could not remember the victims name.
Mr. Gardner said Anthony Lalonde, who was living with his brother, was first to ask him to participate, during a conversation in which a woman named Samantha whose last name he could not recall and another witness, Andrew C. Wells, were present.
Mr. Gardners estranged wife, Brandi Gardner, testified Monday that her husband was part of discussions that afternoon for planning a job, but that she rejected the idea when he asked if he could participate.
Mr. Thorpe also expressed misgivings, which Mr. Gardner said were conveyed to Michael Lalonde during a phone conversation that afternoon. Thorpey didnt want me to do it, because he didnt want my wife knowing about it, he said.
Anthony Lalonde and the woman named Samantha left later in the womans white car, Mr. Gardner said, taking two black plastic masks with them.
Mr. Gardner said he and Michael Lalonde stayed behind and played video games, but that Mr. Lalonde expressed concern about his brother and they went out looking for him. They ultimately found Anthony Lalonde, Mr. Thorpe and Mr. Durand at a home on New York Avenue, Mr. Gardner said, where the trio climbed into Michael Lalondes vehicle. Anthony Lalonde and Mr. Thorpe initially said they didnt end up doing it, he testified, and they dropped Mr. Durand and Mr. Thorpe off at Mr. Thorpes Elizabeth Street residence.
Anthony Lalonde asked his brother to drive them to a bridge on Route 37, Mr. Gardner said, where Mr. Lalonde threw a hat, two wallets and a glove over the side.
After returning to the Lalondes home. Michaels wife, Chrissy, told them shed received a call that the robbery victim was dead. Anthony Lalonde confessed the crime to him later in his bedroom, Mr. Gardner said.
He told me they went in, things got out of control, the victim started struggling, Mr. Gardner said, adding that Mr. Lalonde said that they didnt get much.
Police said the men fled with more than $1,000 and prescription drugs.
The next day, Mr. Gardner said, Mr. Thorpe told him they took crack cocaine, cash and an OxyContin tablet from the old mans pocket.
Mr. Durand told him that police had searched his residence but didnt find anything, Mr. Gardner said.
Mr. Gardner said he spoke to Mr. Thorpe about the incident on several other occasions.
He hoped that everyone kept their mouth shut, Mr. Gardner said, adding that Mr. Thorpe said he hoped a glove lost at the scene wouldnt turn up, as it was his glove and likely contained his DNA.
Mr. Gardner will continue under cross-examination when testimony resumes this morning.