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Killer of restaurant owner gets life term with no parole Cole also guilty of two nonrelated stickups last year

The man convicted of killing the owner of Tony's Ranch House inside the Main Street restaurant 18 months ago was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 25 years.

Ahmir Cole had been convicted of the murder of George Pitliangas, 41, and two other nonfatal stickups last year.

Cole was given the stiff prison term even as he cited "30 different" similarities between the "confessions" of a mentally challenged man first accused of the killing and his own co-defendant.

Cole, 24, a former Seneca High School and Buffalo State College football star, claimed he had been railroaded by authorities, betrayed by a former attorney and unfairly vilified by the news media.

But Senior Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico noted that juries in two separate trials found him guilty.

Catherine Pitliangas told the judge she was "grateful" her husband's killer "can't hurt anyone else," adding that she and her two children "will forever feel this loss and be shaped by it."

Last March 6, a jury found Cole guilty of the Good Friday 2006 murder of Pitliangas during a stickup in his restaurant at Main Street and Dewey Avenue. That jury also found him guilty of the attempted murder of a man outside a Pearl Street nightclub May 7, 2006.

On Aug. 3, another jury found Cole guilty of assault and other charges for a Kenmore deli stickup staged nine days before Pitliangas was killed. That jury also convicted him of drug charges for a May 29, 2006, arrest and the finding of the black .22-caliber Ruger used in the stickups.

Though Cole did not testify at either of his jury trials, he complained at length Thursday, contending Andrew C. LoTempio, his attorney at the first trial, had betrayed him until he fired him after he was convicted.

That prompted the judge to pointedly note that in LoTempio and John R. Nuchereno, who served as Cole's court-appointed attorney at his second trial, he "had two of the best lawyers in the county."

During the March trial, Cole's 24-year-old girlfriend testified that he had admitted to her that he shot Pitliangas. DNA testing also established that the Ruger found in the car Cole was driving when arrested had been the Pitliangas murder weapon, and that it matched the shell casing found at the site of the Pearl Street shooting.

That jury also learned Cole's DNA was found on the abandoned T-shirt his co-defendant, Travis E. Cochran, told authorities Cole wore during the Pitliangas shooting.

Thursday, Cole, reading from a prepared text, complained about how closely the "confession" of the now-imprisoned Cochran seemed to match the "confession" of Raemon R. Woods, 19, a mentally challenged man who admitted the killing. All charges against him were dropped last year.

Cole argued that he was railroaded only because his sister had worked for Pitliangas.

On Aug. 8, D'Amico sentenced Cochran to 20 years for the Pitliangas murder and attempted murder in the case of the Kenmore store clerk.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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