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Ricardo Maisonet today was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Dec. 2, 1996, slaying of Alma Rose Gonzalez.

Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico imposed the maximum sentence on Maisonet, who was convicted of first-degree murder Sept. 9.

Prosecutors said Maisonet, 35, was searching Ms. Gonzalez's flat for drug money and stabbed her eight times while forcing her young nephew to watch.

Maisonet, who was born in Puerto Rico and spent 15 years in state prison for a series of knifepoint robberies in the Bronx, continued to profess his innocence. He told the judge he regrets the death of Ms. Gonzalez.

"She was a friend. I respected her and I'm not the one that killed her."

Maisonet was acquitted Oct. 14 in the rape of a pregnant Buffalo teen-ager.

Maisonet also repeated his claim that the victim's husband (Geraldo Duran) was the one who killed her.

"Jerry is going to walk out the door a free man," he said.

Duran, who faces federal drug-trafficking charges, insisted he didn't kill his wife.

Lena Gonzalez, the victim's sister, said Maisonet "destroyed" her family and left her now seven-year-old nephew, Juan Carlos Duran, traumatized for life.

Maisonet did not testify at his murder trial.

Prosecutor Joseph J. Marusak told the judge that Maisonet is "a predator" who used knives against his mostly female robbery victims in the Bronx. He also noted that the boy will have to relive the "terror" of the stabbing for the rest of his life. He said Juan Carlos is doing well in a Buffalo school but still sleeps with a light on and will likely be "traumatized for the rest of his life."

After the sentencing, Darlene Stokes Maisonet, the former state prison guard who married Maisonet ten years ago, insisted her husband is "innocent."

Marusak said there is no evidence that Duran, who jumped out a second-floor window during the slaying, had anything to do with his wife's death.

Maisonet's attorneys, Robert D. Lonski and Joseph J. Terranova, said they will appeal.

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