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Judge jails worker in slaying of ex-boss

A South Buffalo man was sentenced Tuesday to 18 years to life in prison for the stabbing death of his former boss.

Jonathan Lewicki, 49, of South Park Avenue, tried to rescind his guilty plea to second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Conrad E. Pinker, 79, on July 10, 2011, in the victim's West Seneca home.

"I didn't know what I was doing that day," Lewicki said of his May 15 plea.

State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns, however, did not allow Lewicki to withdraw his plea.

"I see no reason whatsoever to allow a withdrawal of the plea," Burns said.

The judge also denied Lewicki's request to discharge his lawyer, ruling that he had "competent and realistic counsel."

Lewicki also was sentenced to up to seven years in prison for his third-degree burglary conviction. That sentence will run at the same time as the sentence for the murder.

Pinker was the longtime owner of the Garden Spot nursery at Harlem Road and William Street in Cheektowaga.

Pinker's family members sent letters to Burns but chose not to speak during the sentencing hearing.

Pinker was a widower and had been living alone at the time of his death. His granddaughter found his body on the floor of his Laurelton Drive home.

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable described Pinker as a kind, generous and caring man.

"The loss of that person is profound," she said.

Burns said it is clear to him that Pinker was close to his family, friends and customers.

He was a witty and hardworking man, the judge said.

Burns called the murder a vicious, selfish act by Lewicki.

Lewicki declined when asked if he wanted to address the judge about the sentence.

"No, I have nothing to say," he said.

"At the plea, he was extremely remorseful," defense attorney Emily Trott told Burns.

Lewicki "sincerely adored" Pinker, and he considered the victim "a very close friend," Trott said.

"He seems to be a devoted, doting grandfather himself," she said of her client.

Lewicki's criminal background includes drug offenses, burglary, larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

He had been fired from a job at the nursery in the weeks prior to the homicide, according to West Seneca police.

Shortly after the murder, police were able to trace Pinker's stolen van to South Buffalo, near the suspect's home on South Park.