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2nd suspect goes to trial in double murder

Alvin Morton was convicted three weeks ago. But this week the killer will be put on trial again, by his childhood friend and alleged accomplice, Robert Garner.

On Jan. 26, 1992, Garner followed Morton into the Hudson home of Madeline Weisser, 75, and her son, John Bowers, 55, before Morton executed the two on their living room floor, according to testimony at Morton's trial.

Prosecutors say Garner, now 19, helped Morton kill Weisser, by kicking her in the ribs as she lay on the floor and jumping on a knife Morton had stuck in her neck. Garner, like Morton, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and his trial starts today with jury selection.

His defense? Alvin did it.

"Basically, Bobby Garner made the bad mistake of being around Alvin Morton on that night," said Sam Williams, his attorney.

Garner didn't kill anyone, he said. Garner and the third boy charged, Tim Kane, did not even know that Morton had murder on his mind that night.

Morton seemed "possessed" that night, Williams said. "Lord knows why (Morton) went off the deep end, but he certainly did."

In Morton's taped confession, played at his trial, Morton calmly described shooting a helpless Bowers in the back of the head with a sawed-off shotgun. Morton said he would have killed Weisser that way but his gun jammed, and he had to use a knife.

The same knife was later used to cut off Bowers' right pinkie finger. According to trial testimony, Morton and Garner started arguing about who cut off the finger from the moment they stepped outside the Sanderling Lane home.

Later that night, when Morton, Garner and Kane went to a friend's house and dropped the finger into the teen's lap, Morton said Garner cut it off. Garner said Morton was a liar.

Those statements, and Morton's description of Garner as a partner in the slayings, are part of Morton's attempt to take Garner down with him, Williams said. "When what all he had done started soaking in, it's only natural that (Morton) would try to spread the blame around."

Supporting Garner's claims that he didn't help in the killing is the fact that no blood was found on his clothes or shoes, Williams said.

Garner would not have to help in the killings to be convicted of murder. First-degree murder also applies to cases where a murder occurred during a robbery. It is unclear whether a robbery did take place, Williams said.

Morton, now 21, Garner and Kane, now 14, have known each other for years, said Natalie Ciago, Garner's mother. Morton was quiet, but as the oldest, he also was the group's leader.

A fourth member of the group, Chris Walker, 18, has pleaded guilty to charges of accessory to murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Walker fled the house before the killings and has agreed to testify against his former friends.

Ciago said Garner is holding together well.

"Of course, he's very scared," Ciago said. She hopes that her son's jury understands that sometimes youngsters get pulled into situations without understanding what may happen.

"Timmy and Bobby are probably guilty of not being heroes," Ciago said. "They are certainly guilty of sheer stupidity. But they are not guilty of first-degree murder."