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Sutton gets life without parole Calling killer depraved, judge gives maximum

Domenick Sutton is 23, and he will spend the rest of his life in prison for the execution-style murders of four people in a Buffalo home, a crime described as one of the most horrible in the city's history.

Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury on Wednesday called Sutton's 2005 crime "the most depraved, despicable act I've ever seen" and imposed the seldom-used sentence of life without parole.

District Attorney Frank J. Clark earlier called the killings "a horrendous murder case, the likes of which this community has never seen."

Robin Brown, whose daughter, Tonisha Brown, died in her arms after being shot, urged Drury to make sure Sutton never again lives outside prison walls.

"Death is too good for him," she said in presentencing comments. "Why should he get off easy? Life. No possibility [of parole]. Nothing."

Brown and other relatives of the victims applauded when the sentence was pronounced and outside the courtroom thanked prosecutors Frank A. Sedita III and Colleen Curtin for the convictions they obtained from a jury in November against Sutton and Justin Thompson, 25, who will be sentenced Friday.

Sutton and Thompson were convicted of first-degree murder and other counts for the shooting deaths of Robert "Little Man" Brown, 40; his niece, Tonisha Brown, 26; Stacie Guest, 39; and Gregory Conwell, 42.

Although they were both held legally responsible for all the murders, Sutton actually killed Tonisha Brown outside the Brown family home at 320 Koons Ave., while Thompson shot the others inside the house.

The murders took place at about 11:30 p.m. April 23, 2005, and were planned to silence a potential witness or witnesses in a federal counterfeiting investigation involving Thompson, Tonisha Brown and Conwell.

The key testimony in the murder trial came from an 11-year-old boy whose mother was gunned down in front of him. The boy told the jury he saw his mother being shot to death in the driveway of their home and heard Sutton yell out to her: "Hope you die."

In her presentencing remarks, Robin Brown turned to Sutton and asked him why he killed her daughter, wounded one of her grandchildren and fired at -- but missed -- another one of her grandchildren.

"My child is gone," Robin Brown said. "She is never coming back. What did we do to you? Tell me. What did we do to you?"

Sutton, a reputed lieutenant in the Bloods street gang, did not respond.

Defense attorney Andrew C. LoTempio said he advised Sutton to remain silent to avoid prejudicing their appeal of the convictions and the sentence.

Drury said he generally has reservations about sentencing defendants to life without parole but called it is appropriate in Sutton's case.

"You stepped well beyond human conduct, even among murderers," Drury told him. "You merit it for what you did."

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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