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New Bedford man convicted of hammer slaying

October 23, 2013

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — A New Bedford man has been convicted of fatally beating another man with a hammer during a robbery, stealing the victim’s car, and fleeing to Connecticut.

Thomas Gardner was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder for the November 2011 death of Michael Duarte.

Gardner was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder.

The men met at a city home Duarte was interested in buying. The house was owned by Gardner’s ex-wife, and he was staying there in violation of a restraining order.

Prosecutors say Gardner beat Duarte with a hammer and stole money, a cellphone, and his car.

Gardner was arrested days later in Westport, Conn., after a high-speed police chase.

Gardner’s lawyer says the slaying was self-defense during a botched drug deal.

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