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Burglar convicted in stabbing of witness

The first time James Blair victimized Colleen Murray burglarizing her West Utica Street house and stealing her car -- she was a random target.

But the second time the Buffalo man victimized her, in an early-morning home invasion the following month, the violent encounter was personal.

A jury Monday convicted Blair, 21, of attempted murder for stabbing the 52-year-old woman in her home and leaving her for dead so that she could not testify against him and an accomplice over the first break-in.

Blair, also convicted of burglary charges for the break-ins last June and July, faces up to 40 years in state prison.

Jurors rejected Blair's contention that Lincoln C. Ablack, 29, an alleged accomplice, used a kitchen knife to repeatedly stab Murray during the second break-in. Ablack is scheduled to appear in court today.

In his closing argument to jurors Monday, defense attorney Joseph J. Terranova admitted Blair broke into Murray's home but blamed Ablack for the vicious attack.

"He was there. He went in," Terranova said of Blair's role in the early morning home invasion. "But my client left. And that's when the harm to Colleen Murray was done."

Prosecutor Michael P. Felicetta told jurors the evidence pointed to Blair.

"If Lincoln Ablack did it, why isn't there a drop of blood on anything he was wearing that day?" Felicetta asked jurors.

Blood was splattered on three walls in the room where she was attacked, co-prosecutor John Feroleto said earlier in the trial before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang.

At the crime scene, police recovered Blair's bloodied T-shirt. The shirt is stained with her blood and has his DNA on it.

The knife also had his DNA on the handle and her blood on the 8-inch blade.

When Ablack emerged from the house after the attack, he asked for Blair's T-shirt, Blair testified last week.

Blair said he did not know why Ablack asked for the shirt, but he gave it to him.

Monday, Terranova described Blair as a simpleton whose shirt was used by Ablack to wipe Murray's blood from the knife blade.

After Ablack fled following the attack, Blair said, Blair drove off in Murray's car, even though he had never driven a car before.

"He took off on my bike," Blair said of Ablack.

Prosecutors believe Blair planned to return to the scene to retrieve evidence left behind, but Blair did not count on Murray surviving and calling 911.

Murray told the dispatcher that her attacker might be a man -- she indicated Ablack -- she had previously lodged charges against.

Police, familiar with charges against Ablack for the first break-in, immediately went to his home and found her stolen car. Police arrested Ablack, but Blair eluded capture. Blair was arrested the following month.

Blair wanted Murray to die because her testimony over the first burglary put him legal jeopardy, Felicetta said.

"Colleen Murray had the audacity to live," Felicetta added. "She's one of the bravest and strongest people I've met in my entire life."