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BLOOMINGTON - A McLean County jury today convicted a former Bloomington man of first-degree murder for gunning down a rival gang member at Miller Park more than two years ago.

Byron Merriweather will face 45 years to life in prison when he's sentenced next month for the June 15, 2003 slaying of 24-year-old Stephen McDade.

Merriweather, 20, showed no emotion as individual jurors were polled about their guilty verdict in McLean County Circuit Court. The jury deliberated about three hours before returning the verdict.

Prosecutors say Merriweather, a member of the Conservative Vice Lords gang, shot and killed McDade because he was from an opposition gang, the Gangster Disciples.

Merriweather, who did not testify during the week-long trial, confessed to the shooting on a police audiotape and several eyewitnesses told the jury they saw him shoot McDade.

The defense's only witness was another member of Merriweather's gang who said Merriweather was unarmed when the shooting occurred.

Other testimony showed Merriweather had a longstanding feud with the Gangster Disciples and that he had told others he'd previously been shot at by members of that gang.

For more on this story, see Thursday's Pantagraph.

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