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Inmate admits killing his sister

A Buffalo man currently behind bars for life as an incorrigible pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree manslaughter for strangling his sister, then setting fire to her body 15 years ago.

Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk told Michael Verse, 46, he is considering an 11-year prison term on his plea in the July 9, 1993, death of his 38-year-old sister, Towana, in a Bissell Avenue apartment. Verse returned the next day and set fire to her body.

Homicide prosecutor James F. Bargnesi said the family of Verse, once known as Yusuf Abdul Raheem, agreed to the plea. He will be sentenced Jan. 26.

Verse, currently an inmate in Elmira Correctional Facility, told authorities he strangled his sister because he "overreacted" as they argued and added he set fire to the body the next day to cover the crime.

Since March 5, Verse has been serving 12 years to life in prison, imposed by State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia on his plea to a weapons possession charge -- a case stemming from his arrest three years ago for carrying a loaded pistol in Buffalo.

Bargnesi said Verse is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison, given his extensive criminal record, which includes a sexual assault on a Buffalo woman in 1987 and a 1997 Miller Street shooting.

Ten years ago, the Erie County district attorney's office obtained a court order forcing Verse to submit to a blood test because he was suspected of raping his sister before she was killed. He was never charged with that crime, however.

Towana Verse had been living in the Bissell flat about a month before she was strangled.


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