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JURY CONVICTS FORMER ELMWOOD AVENUE MAN OF STRANGLING WOMAN, DUMPING BODY IN CANAL

Richard K. Stevens was convicted Monday of strangling his former girlfriend and throwing her corpse into the Union Ship Canal on Sept. 7, 1996.

A State Supreme Court jury found Stevens, 44, guilty as charged in the slaying of Virginia L. Johnson, 30, whose body was pulled from the canal two days after the slaying.

Jailed since his arrest, Stevens, who lived on Elmwood Avenue, stared at the jury as the verdict was announced in the courtroom of Justice Russell P. Buscaglia. The verdict followed a two-week trial.

Stevens, an unemployed welder convicted previously of four Buffalo armed robberies, faces from 25 years to life when sentenced Dec. 18.

He did not testify or present any defense witnesses.

Last Tuesday, Kurt Stevens, 38, the defendant's brother, testified that on the evening of Sept. 7, 1996, the defendant asked him to go along to Ms. Johnson's apartment in the 500 block of Delaware Avenue to clean it up and remove a heavy chest.

That night, they carted the chest to the canal and, while lifting the chest over a guardrail beneath the Route 5 overpass, the chest broke open and Ms. Johnson's body fell out, he testified.

He said his brother threw the body of Ms. Johnson, a secretary, into the water and told him not to talk to anyone about what had happened.

Asked by defense attorney Mark A. Worrell why he hadn't asked his brother about the body when it fell out of the box, Kurt Stevens said, "It was too late to ask any questions" by then. He later notified the police and was not charged.

Two of the defendant's ex-girlfriends testified at the trial that he had asked them to lie to police and say he was with them the day of the slaying; both said they refused.

Worrell said the conviction will be appealed.

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