Jury convicts Middletown man in drug beating death

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A Goshen jury returned a guilty verdict Monday for a Middletown man who was accused in a drug-related beating death.

The jury convicted 29-year-old James Harris of kidnapping, murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Franklin Fitts, of Yonkers, last September. The conviction came after three days of deliberations.

Harris' conviction is the second in the case; James Blagmon is currently serving 52 years to life for his role. Prosecutors said all of the men sold drugs together. Authorities said the men beat the father of three with a pipe, stuffed his body in his car trunk and abandoned the vehicle in Newburgh over a debt Fitts owned Blagmon.

Investigators said Harris and Blagmon painted over the bloody walls where the crime occurred and burned their clothes.

Harris denied any part in Fitts' death during his trial and his attorney claimed there wasn't enough DNA evidence linking his client to the crime.

Harris faces up to 50 years to life and is scheduled to be sentenced August 13.

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