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Buffalo man pleads guilty to killing girlfriend's stepgrandfather

A Buffalo man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in last year's fatal beating and stabbing of a 58-year-old man on West Ferry Street, the Erie County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

Romaine Jirdon, 20, admitted in Erie County Court to killing Thomas D. Heath in Heath's apartment on Nov. 17, 2017, prosecutors said.

Heath was the stepgrandfather of Jirdon's girlfriend, Alexandria Heath, who also lived in the West Ferry apartment. She also faces a murder charge. In pleading guilty, Jirdon admitted that he acted in concert with Alexandria Heath, the DA's office said.

Jirdon, who remains held without bail, faces a maximum of 20 years to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 4.

Authorities have said little about the motive for the killing but previously indicated there was some type of altercation inside the residence around 9:30 p.m.

Jirdon and Alexandria Heath were arrested later that night at Jirdon's mother's home. Jirdon was later indicted on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. Alexandria Heath was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder.

In the days after the killing, Johanna Jirdon, Romaine's mother, alleged to The Buffalo News that Alexandria Heath had been planning to kill her stepgrandfather for weeks because he was physically abusing her. Romaine Jirdon and Alexandria Heath made the same accusation to investigators, their attorneys told The News.

Laura Stickney Heath, Thomas Heath's estranged wife, called the accusations that he abused his stepgranddaughter untrue.

Thomas D. Heath (Photo courtesy Yonina Andrea Foster)

Thomas Heath, who worked as a welder and pipefitter and was a cancer survivor, raised Alexandria like his own daughter, even though she was a daughter of his estranged wife's daughter from another relationship, according to friends.

"He just had a heart as big as the sun," longtime friend Bill Zimmerman told The News shortly after Heath was killed.

Alexandria Heath, who was 17 at the time of her arrest and is now 18, is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 17 for a pretrial conference. She remains held without bail at the Erie County Holding Center.

Thomas Heath loved sailing and was a volunteer instructor at Seven Seas Sailing Center for about 20 years.  He was a member of Local 22, U.A. Plumbers & Steamfitters, for 32 years, and his work as a mentor to new apprentices in his union was lauded by union officials.

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