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Judge piles on sentences on gunman who killed innocent bystander

A Buffalo man who was convicted in the cold-case murder of an innocent bystander received sentences Tuesday totaling 65 years to life in prison.

The family of Diamond Toler, who was shot and killed less than a week before her 21st birthday in 2013, was ecstatic.

Leron Bailey, 36, was already jailed on unrelated charges when he was indicted in 2017 for Toler’s murder. In January, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder for killing Toler on June 24, 2013, of attempted murder for shooting Moses McCullen that same day, and of two separate weapons charges, one from that day and one from August 2012.

Justice Christopher J. Burns sentenced Bailey to 25 years to life in prison on the murder charge. He sentenced him to 25 years for the attempted murder and 15 years for the June 2013 weapons charge, to run consecutively to the murder sentence. Once those sentences are done, Bailey has another sentence of 15 years to serve on the second weapons conviction, keeping him in prison at least until he is 101.

Before the sentence was pronounced, Bailey continued to protest his innocence. But, in doing so, he implicated himself in the crime— firing shots into a parked van containing three people — for the first time.

“I wasn’t the shooter,” Bailey said, before he admitted he was there. “Any role I played there was being the lookout. It wasn’t meant for her to be hurt.”

In this News file photo, Cathy Toler, right, of Buffalo, holds a photo of her slain daughter, Diamond Toler, who was fatally shot while sitting with two other people in a van. The prayer rally was organized by the Stop the Violence Coalition. (News file photo)

Diamond Toler was sitting in the back seat, with McCullen in the driver’s seat and another woman alongside him. McCullen was shot in the chest, but was able to drive his injured friend and himself to Erie County Medical Center. Toler died of her injuries; McCullen survived and moved away, but he eventually came forward to identify Bailey as the man who shot them.

Leron Bailey.

On Tuesday, after Bailey asserted he didn’t shoot anyone, he admitted they were "after Moses."

Burns listened to Bailey and then told him the jury got it right.

He also made it clear how senseless it was that Toler died.

“She was an innocent person, an innocent girl, who had no reason to think this would happen to her,” Burns said.

Catherine Toler, who waited five years to find justice for her daughter, thanked the judge, the prosecutors, the investigators and God after the sentence, which she had hoped for not only for the sake of her lost child but also for others.

“It’s not right,” she had tearfully told the judge. “Kids can’t walk out on the streets any more because of people like him.”

The family said after court that they were heading to the cemetery to mark the event at Diamond Toler’s gravesite.

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