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Arrest made in slaying on North Oak St.

A 45-year-old man has been charged with killing an elderly acquaintance during what Buffalo police described as a burglary gone bad.

The arrest of Earl Gill, who had been staying in the City Mission, was announced during a news conference Thursday morning in Buffalo Police Headquarters. Gill was charged with murder and burglary.

The body of Marlene Johnson, 76, was discovered at midday Tuesday in the bedroom of her apartment at 587 North Oak St. where she lived alone. Asphyxiation appeared to be the cause of death, police said Thursday.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson praised the public for providing police information -- including the suspect's nickname: "Shakedown."

Detectives learned that Gill had been seen around Johnson's home. The two were acquainted, Gipson said, but declined to explain how they met.

Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives, said police found signs of forced entry to Johnson's apartment. She is believed to have surprised Gill during the break-in.

Police declined to say what had been taken from the apartment.

Gill was described as somewhat of a transient. Police said he has a history of "predatory" crimes, including burglary.

According to state records, Gill served several years in Gowanda Correctional Facility following a burglary conviction in 1994. Before that, he spent a few years in Wyoming Correctional Facility on a sexual-abuse conviction.

Police said Johnson was well-known in her neighborhood.

"She was kind of a grandmother in the community," Gipson said.

Such a crime against an elderly woman is disturbing, the commissioner said. "I think that's one of the things that makes it so egregious to our sensibilities," he said.

During police questioning, Gill reportedly made statements indicating his involvement in the crime.

"I think he wanted to rid himself and absolve himself of the crime that he committed," Gipson said. "A lot of criminals want to tell their story."

Detective Sgt. James Lonergan led the investigation, assisted by Detectives JamesLema, Scott Malec, Reginald Minor and Mark Vaughn.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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