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Judge gives 'cold-blooded murderer' of young mom up to life in prison

Santana O. Anderson, a 26-year-old mother of two, was standing among a group of women and children in August 2018 when she was shot in the head and killed.

It happened in Buffalo's Schiller Park neighborhood in front of her then-5-year-old daughter. Anderson and another woman, who was shot but survived, were innocent bystanders.

Now, the man convicted by a jury of pulling the trigger may spend the rest of his life in prison.

"You're a cold-blooded murderer. You have no soul and you have no conscience," Erie County Court Judge Sheila A. DiTullio told Lemuele T. Jackson before issuing the sentence.

Jackson, 32, received the maximum sentence available — 25 years to life for second-degree murder and 3½ to seven years for first-degree reckless endangerment, to be served consecutively. He also was sentenced to eight years to life for second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a sentence that will be served concurrently. An Erie County jury convicted Jackson on those charges in October.

The shooting happened on Aug. 4, 2018, on Hagen Street. Before the gunfire, there was a fight next door among some women, one of whom was Jackson's sister.

According to prosecutors, Jackson's sister left the area and told the others she would "be back." About 10 minutes later, the bullets — intended for targets next door — flew.

"I survived a bullet, but you killed my soul," Tiffany Jones, a 38-year-old who was shot in the leg and abdomen that night, told Jackson during her victim-impact statement in the courtroom.

Jackson was released from prison 33 days before the killing. He had been serving a sentence after being convicted of attempted murder and reckless endangerment, according to online records from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Jackson also was convicted in 2004 of first-degree attempted burglary, the judge said.

Before she issued the sentence, DiTullio determined Jackson was a "persistent violent felony offender," a designation which allowed for longer prison terms.

Jackson, who maintains his innocence, told the judge it was "crazy" to believe someone who just came home from being in prison would commit a crime like this. He called it a "senseless crime," and said he hoped the victims' family and friends one day find out who the real perpetrator was.

"It is no longer in my hands," he told the judge, as he stood in shackles and orange prison garb next to his defense attorney, Emily Trott. "It is in God's hands."

Jackson's October conviction came after his second trial; his first ended with a mistrial after a juror went online to find out more information on the case. During that second trial, one of the witnesses was shot on the morning he was scheduled to testify. He survived the shooting and still testified that morning.

Anderson, who also had a son who was 2 at the time of her death, was a devoted mother who was also caring for two children of her deceased brother, said her mother, Theresa Collins. Collins said her son, at age 21, also became a victim of "senseless violence."

"This has devastated my life," Collins said in court.

Anderson said the loss of their mother has made her grandchildren anxious. But she has forgiven Jackson, she said.

"I wouldn't wish this on him," she said.

DiTullio read a short letter written to the court by Anderson's daughter.

"I did not want him to do that," the girl wrote.

The judge, referencing letters written by Anderson's family and friends, called Anderson a beautiful, young, loving mother who put her children first. She was a "role model" — "We don't hear that enough," the judge said — who was murdered by a coward, DiTullio said.

"Everyone in Buffalo should know that Santana Anderson was a valuable person and her life ended far too early," she said.

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