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McKeesport man pleads guilty to deadly jitney shooting, gets up to 30 years

Megan Guza
| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 5:48 p.m.

Lashaun Saunders lamented that her daughter Shanique will never call her again or rummage through her refrigerator, and they'll never laugh together again.

She called Nov. 30, 2016, the worst day of her life. That's when Russell Spence, 20, of McKeesport shot and killed her daughter.

On Tuesday, Lashaun Saunders stood in Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Cashman's courtroom and asked for the maximum sentence against Spence.

“You killed my soul. You killed my life,” she said. “I hope you rot in hell.”

Spence pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree murder in the death of Shanique Saunders, 23, whom he shot from the backseat of a jitney as she sat in the front passenger seat.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Nov. 30, police responded to McKinley Street in Pittsburgh's Knoxville neighborhood for a report of a shooting. They found Shanique Saunders lying in the street, and she was pronounced dead a short time later at UPMC Mercy.

The jitney driver — unnamed in the criminal complaint filed Dec. 8 against Spence — told police that Saunders needed the jitney to run errands and do Christmas shopping. They picked up Spence, Saunders' friend, along the way.

During the car ride, the driver reported a heated argument between Spence and Saunders, during which Spence accused her of “being a snitch” and stealing a chain and money from him, according to the complaint.

Spence later shot Saunders through the back of the passenger seat and then pushed her out of the car, according to the complaint. He rummaged through her pockets and took off, according to police.

In exchange for Spence's guilty plea, the District Attorney's Office agreed to a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison.

Spence remained mostly silent for the duration of the proceedings, save for an apology at the end.

“I want to apologize to the victim's family and to the courts as well,” Spence said.

Lashaun Saunders stormed out of the courtroom.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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