Although Tyrome L. Elder was sentenced Tuesday to 32 years to life in prison, the "whodunnit" aspect of the slaying of a Buffalo man in Niagara Falls in 2009 seems unsettled.
The victim's mother, Brenda Humphrey, said after the sentencing in Niagara County Court that she thought another man, Earl McCoy of Rochester, actually killed her son, Jacobi L. Lovett.
But a jury acquitted McCoy, 29, of all charges earlier this month. His attorney, John R. Parrinello, argued Elder was the shooter and McCoy played no role in the robbery that resulted in Lovett's death on a Niagara Falls street Nov. 7, 2009.
Another jury in March convicted Elder, 25, of Weston Avenue, Niagara Falls. He and McCoy were charged with murder under the accomplice liability law, which required prosecutors to show both were present with criminal intent. They never had to show which one actually fired the fatal shot.
Elder on Tuesday maintained his innocence and called the sentence from Judge Matthew J. Murphy III "temporary."
"I think Earl was the shooter," said Elder's attorney, Yvonne Vertlieb. "I think my client has very good issues on appeal."
Lovett, 36, of Stanislaus Street, Buffalo, was sitting in a green Jaguar on Niagara Avenue in the Falls about 1 a.m. when, according to police, he was approached by Elder and McCoy, who allegedly intended to rob him.
Lovett was shot once in the left thigh, but the bullet struck his femoral artery and he bled to death. He ran down Niagara Avenue looking for help before collapsing in the doorway of a convenience store at Niagara Avenue and Main Street.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann reminded Murphy that there had been testimony that Elder borrowed a handgun from another man six to seven hours before Lovett was shot. Based on that, she asked Murphy to impose additional time for a weapons possession conviction on top of the maximum murder sentence of 25 years to life.
Murphy did that, but he made only seven years consecutive to the murder sentence, not 15, as Hoffmann asked.
"I think I'm satisfied with him running together the two charges," Hoffmann said afterward.
Murphy told Elder, "After sitting through five weeks of the McCoy trial, I'm as convinced as I was when I heard the verdict that you're guilty. I intend to sentence you as a murderer."
Humphrey, who traveled from Charlotte, N.C., for the sentencing, said outside the courtroom, "McCoy is the one who shot my son. I believe it in my heart. He's the shooter who got away."
Hoffmann said, "I'm not going to comment on that."
Humphrey said in the courtroom that she forgave Elder.
"God's word says, 'Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.' I forgive him because that is what I am supposed to do," Humphrey told Murphy.
But she also said she thought the death penalty would be appropriate, or, failing that, life in prison without parole. Neither option was available to Murphy.
Humphrey said in an interview that she thought the robbery was set up by Dominique Hunter, who received immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony against Elder and McCoy.
Testimony indicated a possible love triangle among Hunter, Elder, and Lovett, who a few days before the slaying had offered Hunter $5,000 to travel to Florida with him.
Hunter testified that she accepted the offer and let Elder know about it.
"Dominique, she's just a friend. She was not a girlfriend," Elder said.
McCoy, who met Elder while they were in state prison together, allegedly was summoned from Rochester to take part in the robbery.
"I know I didn't commit any crimes," Elder said Tuesday. "God knows I didn't commit any crimes. I don't know Jacobi. I never spoke to Jacobi. I never got close enough to have a conversation with Jacobi. The fact my co-defendant was acquitted just proves I shouldn't be here."
Echoing Parrinello's summation in the McCoy trial, Elder said, "The police in Niagara Falls, they did a very sloppy investigation. I wasn't at the scene when it happened. I didn't pull the trigger."
Humphrey said, "The judicial system has nothing for this guy that God has."