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He raised his step-granddaughter like his own child; now she's accused of killing him

Thomas Heath raised Alexandria Heath like she was his own child, even though she wasn't.

He called "Allie" his daughter. She called him dad.

But Friday, she and her boyfriend killed him, according to Buffalo police.

The 17-year-old was actually Heath's step-granddaughter – a daughter of his estranged wife's daughter from another relationship.

In recent months, the teenager caused him more and more grief, a friend of Heath said. In the last few years, Allie started associating with individuals that Heath wasn't particularly fond of.

But Heath kept his heartache private, said Bill Zimmerman, Heath's friend for more than 20 years. Heath, who worked as a welder and pipefitter and was a cancer survivor, kept working to be a good parent and kept loving Allie, Zimmerman said.

"He just had a heart as big as the sun," he said.

Authorities have accused Alexandria Heath and her boyfriend, Romaine Jirdon, 19, of killing the 58-year-old in the father's 459 W. Ferry St. apartment where the 17-year-old also lived.

Alexandria Heath, 17, and Romaine Jirdon, 19, have each been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Thomas Heath, 58. (Photos courtesy Erie County Sheriff's Office)

Heath was found beaten and stabbed to death. Allie and her boyfriend each face a second-degree murder charge and were being held without bail in the Erie County Holding Center. They're due back in Buffalo City Court on Wednesday.

Authorities have released few details about the crime, but there was some type of altercation inside the home Friday night, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn has said.

Allie attended International Preparatory School on Buffalo's West Side, according to her Facebook page.  Neighbors told The Buffalo News that Allie is pregnant, and one neighbor said Heath strongly objected when Jirdon tried to move into the apartment about a week earlier.

Heath was a member of Plumbers & Steamfitters, Local 22 for 32 years. He went through the union's apprenticeship program and was a dependable worker who showed up everyday and did a great job, said Sean Redden, a business agent for Local 22. He said Heath also was a "great mentor" to new apprentices.

"The whole thing's a shame," Redden said.

Heath loved sailing and was a volunteer teacher at Seven Seas Sailing Center for about 20 years, Zimmerman said.

"It amazed me how he could work five 10-hour shift days and then on his first day off he could teach in the morning, teach in the afternoon and then take a cruise out for customers and then afterwards call his kids and say, 'Come on, we're going sailing,' " Zimmerman said.

Allie stopped sailing with Heath about a year ago, he said.

Heath had two children of his own: a daughter, Madison, 28, a registered nurse, and a son, Brenton, 26, a veteran who is studying for a master's degree in geology.

Madison got married a few weeks ago. The father and children regularly got together for Sunday dinners.

Zimmerman and Heath got their boat captain's licenses together. The friends talked daily. They gathered at least one night a week at Zimmerman's house to watch movies with friends.

They had planned to watch a movie called "The Shack" last Friday night, but Heath never showed. Heath had just finished reading the book, a New York Times bestseller.

Zimmerman said he sent his friend a text message at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning reminding him about a meeting at the marina a few hours later. He got no response from Heath.

"In all the 20 years I knew Tom, I never saw him argue with anyone or even say a bad word about anyone," Zimmerman said. "He was a consistently precious and generous soul to everyone."

Laura Stickney Heath, Heath's estranged wife, declined to comment.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Castiglia Funeral Home on Abbott Road. A private service is planned with no prior visitation.

Neighbors heard arguing and saw vehicle leave at time of West Ferry homicide

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