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Sentencing set in strangulation

A Delevan man faces sentencing today in Cattaraugus County Court for the strangulation of his 80-year-old neighbor in their Delevan Terrace Apartments more than a year ago.

Wilbur Norton, 80, was found dead next to a sofa shortly before noon in his apartment Dec. 1, 2009, by a Meals on Wheels volunteer who was delivering food. An autopsy the next day in Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, determined Norton's death was a homicide.

Melvin L. Stephenson, 43, an upstairs neighbor, was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and and first-degree robbery following an eight-day jury trial last month. A death certificate lists the cause of death as strangulation. A murder weapon was never identified.

The trial was based mostly on circumstantial evidence and the fact that money was missing from Norton's residence and Stephenson was seen the next day out shopping in stores.

Norton was known to frequently lend money to neighbors and friends.

Stephenson has continued to maintain his innocence and has been held in the Cattaraugus County Jail without bail since his arrest shortly after the murder. He was taken into custody on an unrelated parole violation for driving while intoxicated.

Judge Larry M. Himelein is expected to sentence Stephenson to serve 25 years to life in prison for the murder charge and to additional time on the other convictions.

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