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Wed., Sep. 2
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Ogdensburg man murdered


OGDENSBURG — City police are investigating the murder of an 83-year-old man Thursday evening.

The attack on Ralph E. Lawton occurred shortly before 6 p.m. at 930 Ford St., authorities said. Mr. Lawton was taken to Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, St. Lawrence County Coroner James M. Sienkiewycz said.

An autopsy done late Thursday at Claxton-Hepburn showed the man died of numerous hits to the chest and his death was ruled a homicide, Mr. Sienkiewycz said. He said the autopsy showed no bruising on his face, and it appeared Mr. Lawton did not put up much of a struggle. Forensic pathologist Dr. Samuel A. Livingstone performed the autopsy.

Police were tight-lipped on the investigation late Thursday. Police would not speculate on a possible motive for the attack, nor would they say how many suspects were involved. No one was in custody. Several detectives were looking into the incident at 930 Ford St.

"We're still interviewing people," Police Chief Richard J. Polniak Jr. said. "We have no details at this time. It's an investigation, but I can't say what it is at this point in time."

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé said her office knew little else.

"It's still early in the investigation," Ms. Duvé said.

Police were canvassing the neighborhood Thursday, searching for possible witnesses. Several people slowed as they walked past the crime scene, and a handful stood at the corner of Ford and Paterson streets, watching officers fill out forms and walk inside the two-story house. St. Lawrence County sheriff's detectives were assisting in the investigation.

Several neighbors who declined to be identified said that they have seen increased traffic to the house, and that crime in the neighborhood has been a constant source of problems. One neighbor said she would be taking extra precautions to make sure her home is safe.

"It makes me a little nervous," said Jenessa M. Fenton, who lives at Denny and Ford streets. "It definitely makes me lock my doors."

Duff's Tavern bartender Steven D. Riddle also said the neighborhood has been changing for the worse. Duff's is across the street from the scene of the attack.

"It's getting weird around here," Mr. Riddle said.

City Councilman Michael B. Powers visited the scene after he learned of the attack while he was at the police station on unrelated business.

"It's time to take a hard line," Mr. Powers said. "Here we have another homicide in our fair city. This can't happen in Ogdensburg."

The last murder in Ogdensburg occurred on Aug. 30, 2005, when Bernard A. Trickey Jr. was beaten with a baseball bat. Neighbor Wayne T. Oxley Jr., 41, is accused of killing him. Oxley was charged with second-degree murder. His second trial is ongoing in St. Lawrence County Court before Judge Jerome J. Richards.

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