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Jury convicts man, 20, of slaying victim after stealing Air Jordans

Jose L. Mejia has been convicted of fatally shooting Darryl L. Jones after stealing his expensive Air Jordan sneakers last summer.

The jury found Mejia, 20, guilty as charged of first-degree murder and of robbery, weapons and stolen property counts.

The verdict, announced at about 7:20 p.m. Tuesday, was reached after about four hours of deliberations at the close of a weeklong trial.

As Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio received the verdict, Mejia's mother, Rosemary Coleman, with whom Mejia lives on Kensington Avenue, began screaming and was escorted from the courtroom.

Prosecutor James F. Bargnesi said he will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to recommend that the judge impose life without parole when Mejia is sentenced July 18.

First-degree murder carries a prison term of at least 20 years to life and gives the trial judge the option of life without parole.

Jones, 22, of Moselle Street, was shot in the back as he ran in his stocking feet from Mejia and another man at about 1 a.m. June 22 on Vermont Street.

Prosecutors said Mejia had forced Jones to give him his expensive sneakers at gunpoint. Then, as the victim fled, he shot him once before bicycling away with the sneakers.

Mejia, who has been jailed since his arrest July 8, had testified Monday that homicide detectives had tricked him into signing a murder confession after hours of interrogation.

Mejia also claimed his co-defendant, Luis R. Hernandez, 17, who is awaiting sentencing, falsely told police Mejia had coaxed him into a hunt for robbery victims.

Last Thursday, Hernandez, of Plymouth Avenue, told the jury that Mejia came to his house hours before the killing, told him he had a gun and invited him to help find someone to rob.

Hernandez testified that Mejia also stole Jones' cell phone and wallet and then made several anonymous calls to his victim's family.

Hernandez, who pleaded guilty Oct. 12 to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter, faces a prison term of 15 to 20 years.

In his testimony, Mejia claimed homicide detectives took him from his Kensington Avenue home at about 1:30 p.m. July 8 and, after hours of interrogation, forced him to sign a false murder confession by claiming that's all he had to do to go back home with his mother.

Mejia also told the jury he had purchased Jones' sneakers June 23 on 14th Street from a guy named "Zak."

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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