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East Hills man gets life in 2004 double slaying of man, girl |

East Hills man gets life in 2004 double slaying of man, girl

| Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:00 p.m

A judge sentenced an East Hills man Monday to two consecutive life sentences plus 35 to 70 years for kidnapping and killing a Wilkinsburg man and his girlfriend.

An Allegheny County jury spared Lester Johnson’s life when it deadlocked in May over whether he should die by lethal injection for killing James R. Jones, 26, and Shawnte Betts, 17, in 2004.

Johnson, 25, maintained his innocence. He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in addition to kidnapping, conspiracy and unlawful restraint.

The mother of one victim called the sentence bittersweet.

“It’s not bringing my daughter back. She would have been 22 now,” said Tiffanee Smith, 40, of the North Side. “But his fate is sealed.”

Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski imposed the sentence.

Dan Fitzsimmons, chief trial deputy for the District Attorney’s Office, told the jury Johnson attacked the couple in Lincoln-Lemington. Police found Jones’ body a day later in a Toyota Camry parked off Marlboro Avenue in Wilkinsburg. He was shot several times.

Betts’ body was found in a wooded area nearby. She died from a bullet wound in the head, police said.

Several eyewitnesses identified Johnson. No physical evidence linked him to the scene.

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