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PLEA BRINGS FIVE-YEAR TERM IN 1992 SLAYING OF MAN'S FRIEND

A former North Tonawanda resident, whose 1994 jury conviction for first-degree manslaughter was overturned, was sentenced Friday to a lesser term on his guilty plea to the same charge.

Mark S. Robbins, who was a soldier serving in Buffalo as a file clerk at the time he killed Morris J. Blanner, 33, on July 7, 1992, was ordered to serve five to 15 years in prison by Orleans County Judge James P. Punch, an acting Niagara County judge.

Robbins pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to first-degree manslaughter. He was convicted by a jury in January 1994 and had begun serving his 8 1/2 - to 25-year prison term when the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.

The conviction was overturned on grounds that Punch erroneously allowed Robbins' confession to be admitted into evidence. He has been in custody since the 1994 conviction and will be given credit for time already served.

The badly decomposed body of Blanner, a resident of the Webster Hotel in North Tonawanda, was discovered on July 11 in bushes along a North Tonawanda railroad track known locally as "Ghostman's Path."

Police determined Blanner had been punched, beaten with a large piece of wood about the head and had a stick shoved down his throat.

Witnesses said Blanner and Robbins, who were friends, had been drinking in a neighborhood tavern in the early hours of July 7, when they began to argue about "a personal matter." Blanner was killed as the two walked back toward his hotel.

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