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Man, 56, found guilty of murdering stepson

Almost nine years to the day after his son was sentenced to life in prison for a violent Buffalo drug murder, George Harris was convicted of the shotgun killing of his stepson, an incident triggered by an argument over pizza.

Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman, who conducted the two-week, nonjury trial, found Harris, 56, guilty as charged of a single count of second-degree murder in the death of Thomas Liberatore, 32.

Harris' attorneys had argued their client was emotionally out of control.

Harris used a shotgun he had purchased six days before he shot Liberatore in the chest and head, as the victim's wife, Kristen, watched in the basement of their Prospect Avenue home at about 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7.

Harris, a former psychiatric hospital employee, did not testify and did not react as the judge issued her verdict in a courtroom packed with friends and relatives of the victim and a few of Harris' relatives.

Harris was remanded pending his Nov. 17 sentencing.

Trial prosecutors Gary W. Hackbush and Jaime C. Gallagher said they will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to recommend the maximum sentence of 25 year to life.

The verdict was rendered about nine years to the day after the defendant's son, Antonio Harris, 29, was sentenced to 20 years to life for the 1998 torture slaying of a North Street man over a drug deal.

Troutman said psychiatric evidence that George Harris, a former BryLyn Hospital employee, was emotionally out of control was "not established" by the defense.

Moments after the verdict, Phil Liberatore, the father of the victim and also his boss at Phil's Auto Repairs on Pennsylvania Street, said he was "happy justice came through."

The victim's wife has since returned to her hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., along with their two children.

The victim was respected among West Side neighbors. Friends established the Tommy Liberatore Memorial Fund, c/o Citizens Bank, 101 Slade Ave., Buffalo, NY 14224, to help his wife and two children.

More than 200 people attended the Navy veteran's Mass of Christian Burial in Holy Angels Catholic Church on Porter Avenue.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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