A young mother and her 7-year-old son were strangled last September by Shane Stevenson, who admitted to murder charges Wednesday, said Colleen Curtin Gable, the Homicide Bureau chief for the Erie County District Attorney's Office.
No motive emerged during his State Supreme Court appearance on why he killed Raina M. Voll and Leo Klinger, or why he spared the life of Voll’s other son, 2-year-old Stephen Klinger. The bodies of Voll and her son were found Sept. 15 in the family’s apartment at 1311 French Road, Cheektowaga.
Stevenson, 31, was unemotional as he pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.
Justice Russell P. Buscaglia accepted the plea and agreed to dismiss the highest charge against Stevenson, first-degree murder, which carried a sentence of up to life in prison without parole.
Stevenson now faces a possible prison sentence of up to 25 years to life on each count.
Buscaglia made no commitment on what his sentence might be. Before accepting the plea he made it clear to Stevenson that the sentences could be consecutive.
"If they run run after another, it could be as long as 50 to life, do you understand that?" Buscaglia asked.
"Yes," Stevenson replied.
Curtin Gable said her office agreed to the plea in part because of the "wide and appropriate sentencing range," and also because it spared Voll's family from going through a trial.
Defense attorney John Gilmour said Stevenson had accepted responsibility from the beginning and never wanted to fight the charges.
Voll’s friends, neighbors and coworkers described her as a kind and friendly woman who was devoted to her sons. She had lived in the Kingswood Apartments complex for about a month before her death, according to a coworker.
Curtin Gable said that the murders occurred in the early morning hours of Sept. 15. Later that day, Stevenson left the distraught toddler in a stroller outside Union Road Community Church, and put Voll's cell phone in the stroller.
A neighbor who heard Stephen crying that afternoon called police. Officers used the phone to call Voll's contacts, which led them to the apartment.
Stevenson seemed less outgoing, and neighbors said he stayed to himself. He apparently had some interest in a music career, describing himself online as being in an experimental metal band called Sickafrenic.
In court Wednesday, Stevenson, his beard now full and his hair longer, was wearing a pair of glasses that his attorney had provided him so he could read the legal paperwork and go forward with the plea.
Buscaglia set sentencing for May 3.