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Melvin Virgil, a Buffalo man who may become Erie County's first murder defendant in 36 years to face the death penalty, was sent to prison Monday for 50 years to life for his latest robbery and sex crimes.

Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico imposed the maximum prison term on Virgil, 28, of Hurlock Avenue for his June 7 conviction in an attack on a man and a woman Dec. 19.

Virgil's sister and co-defendant, Theresa Virgil, 25, has been in custody since May as an accomplice. She does not face the death penalty in connection with the slaying of delicatessen owner Thomas Reid because her brother is accused of being the shooter. The Virgils are accused of killing Reid nine days after the crimes Virgil was sentenced for Monday.

Virgil also faces a separate trial for a Lackawanna robbery two days after the murder of the 67-year-old Reid. Virgil seemed unbothered in court with the life sentence D'Amico imposed and did not comment.

D'Amico rebuked Virgil for his "background of significant prior criminal conduct" and a history of 18 prior arrests and prison terms for rape, robbery, burglary and weapons charges dating from his teen-age years.

Prosecutor Brian Clinton Mahoney said Virgil used a knife and a handgun to take jewelry and more than $200 cash from a man and woman who had come to his sister's flat to watch television. Virgil had fondled the woman before tying up both victims with their shoelaces, the prosecutor said.

Ms. Virgil testified as a prosecution witness against her brother at the jury trial over the Dec. 19 incident.

Robert M. Goldstein and John J. Molloy, the defense lawyers assigned to represent Virgil in all his cases, said they will appeal the conviction and the prison term.

Reid was shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle last Dec. 28 in Reid's Superette, 1038 E. Ferry St.

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