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Protesting his innocence, Elijah N. Nance today was ordered to serve the maximum term of 25 years to life for murdering a convenience store clerk during a robbery last year on Broadway.

Erie County Judge Joseph P. McCarthy rebuked Nance, 29, telling him the shooting of Mary Ann DeSabio, 29, was "so unnecessary." Eyewitnesses said she was willing to give him the cash register receipts "without argument," McCarthy noted.

Mrs. DeSabio was about to be relieved from her shift at the Cumberland Farms store at 1225 Broadway about 11 p.m. Oct. 18, 1989.

"But for two minutes one way or the other, she might not have been shot," the judge said.

Nance, who spent 19 months in prison for his role as the driver of a getaway car in a 1979 restaurant holdup, insisted he wasn't one of the three men who robbed the convenience store.

Nance, of Gerhardt Street, was convicted Aug. 26 of second-degree murder, robbery and weapons charges and identified as the man who shot Mrs. DeSabio once in the chest with a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle.

"I'm still innocent, I'm going to fight until somebody hears me out," Nance told the judge.

Nance insisted that he was earning money in a series of temporary laborer's jobs last year and had "no reason" to rob because his wife also was working.

Nance admitted he has "an alcohol problem" but insisted, "I didn't shoot that woman."

Nance has a criminal record that began with a term in reform school for juvenile delinquency in the mid-1970s and includes his 1979 robbery arrest and conviction, a 1982 weapons conviction, a 1984 reckless-endangerment conviction and a 1985 shoplifting arrest. He has been in custody about six out of the past 10 years, according to court records.

Prosecutor Yvonne Vertlieb asked the judge to impose the maximum permitted sentence.

She told the judge that Mrs. DeSabio, according to two other store employees, offered no resistance before she was gunned down. Police were not able to determine how much money was taken in the robbery.

Denouncing Nance for the "inexcusable crime," Mrs. Vertlieb said Mrs. DeSabio, of Lathrop Street, was working to save money to go back to school.

Mark D. Hosken, Nance's court-assigned attorney, said the conviction will be appealed.

Nance's cousin, James "Dee Red" Jordan, 22, of Goodyear Avenue, still faces trial on murder charges in the DeSabio killing. The third suspect has never been identified.

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