Damoni Hall apologized Friday for killing his estranged girlfriend last year in her Lackawanna apartment.
He stabbed Tequila Suter 39 times but told her mother, father and other family members just before he was sentenced for murder that the attack was not intentional, calling it “a horrific accident.”
The comments visibly angered State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller, who ordered the 22-year-old defendant to serve 20 years to life in prison.
“You said it was not intentional, but you pled guilty to intentional murder,” the judge said, raising his voice. “It was no accident,” he added.
The judge took note of 25 letters asking for leniency that he received from the defendant’s family and friends.
“If someone butchered their daughter 39 times, would they want leniency?” he asked.
Boller questioned Hall’s statement that he blacked out during the attack. “You were enraged,” he said, noting that he didn’t stop after the first or second stab wound but continued attacking the 26-year-old woman.
“You deserve life in prison so you don’t do this again to somebody else’s daughter,” he said.
Hall, of Lehigh Street, Lackawanna, pleaded guilty last month as charged to second-degree murder in the Feb. 15 slaying in Suter’s first-floor apartment on Wilkesbarre Avenue. He faced at least 15 years to life in prison and at most 25 years to life.
At the time of the plea, Boller said he was capping the sentence at 20 years to life because the plea spared the victim’s family from having to endure the trauma of a trial.
Suter’s body was found Feb. 16 when a friend asked her brother, who was the supervisor of the apartment building where the victim lived, to go into Suter’s apartment and make sure she was OK after she failed to show up for church, which she regularly attended on Sundays.
Hall was taken into custody Feb. 27 at an attorney’s office in downtown Buffalo.
Assistant District Attorney James F. Bargnesi, chief of District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III’s Homicide Bureau, told the judge the homicide was especially brutal. The 39 wounds included “a horrific neck wound,” he said.
The prosecutor described Hall’s efforts to cover up what he had done by cleaning himself and the bloody crime scene before fleeing on a bus.
He cited surveillance video showing Hall carrying a bag, which contained the knife and the victim’s bloody clothing.
The day after the killing, Bargnesi said, Hall “acted shocked and surprised when the woman he butchered was found dead” and denied that he had attacked her.
But as Lackawanna police and prosecutors found evidence against him, Hall changed his story, claiming the victim had brought out the knife during an argument, the prosecutor said.
During sentencing, Hall told the judge the confrontation started with false accusations that led to a heated argument and a struggle. “I lost all control,” he said, adding that he was not trying to justify his actions that night.
After sentencing, Bargnesi accused Hall of trying to shift the blame on the victim. He called his comments “nothing short of offensive.” The prosecutor said Hall got “exactly what he deserved.”
“The judge made it clear that he should die in prison,” he said.
Bargnesi added that he hoped the parole board would take the judge’s comments into consideration when the case comes before it in 20 years.
During sentencing, the victim’s uncle, Dominic Suter, described his niece as an outgoing person who was taking online college courses and was active in her church, working to help young people and a foster child.
He credited her with taking his children to church and helping make sure they did the right thing.
“She was uplifting to everybody,” he added. “She opened her heart to talk people into happiness.”