A northern New Jersey businessman has been sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting of his business partner.

Thomas Battinelli of Ridgefield must serve more than 63 years of the sentence imposed Wednesday before he becomes eligible for parole. A Bergen County jury in May found the 56-year-old florist guilty of murder, theft, hindering apprehension and weapons offenses.

Battinelli was arrested in January 2010, one day after the body of 56-year-old Michael Murphy of Montvale was found at his desk inside G&M Wholesale Florist in Garfield.

An autopsy determined that he died of a gunshot wound to the head with a .22-caliber rifle, and authorities said the weapon belonged to Battinelli and was found in a walk-in fridge close to Murphy's desk.

Battinelli continues to maintain his innocence.

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