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2 men get life terms in shooting


Two men convicted in the fatal shooting of a Randallstown woman whose husband was the supposed target of a botched murder and robbery plot were sentenced yesterday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Shawn E. Gardner, who will turn 27 tomorrow, and Aaron D. Holly, 20, could have walked away after Tanya Jones-Spence tumbled off a balcony while trying to get away from them, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts said before imposing sentences for first-degree murder.

Instead, they shot her "like she was some kind of animal to be hunted" in broad daylight and in front of children playing outside, Ballou-Watts said.

"The murder was cold. It was calculated. It was brazen. And, most of all, it was completely unwarranted," the judge said. "She was no threat to either of you."

Ballou-Watts' sentence left relatives and friends of Jones-Spence "definitely satisfied," said La-Donna Simms, who grew up with the 28-year-old mother of two and spoke on behalf of her family during yesterday's sentencing.

Earlier, as family members left the courtroom in tears, Simms described Jones-Spence as "our sunshine on rainy days."

"They took a piece of jewelry from us, a piece of gold," she told Ballou-Watts.

Gardner, a resident of Chase, and Holly, a resident of Catonsville, were arrested June 7, 2002, several minutes after the shooting and a few blocks from the 8600 block of Bramble Lane, where the shooting occurred.

In a wooded area that the men had been seen leaving, investigators found Jones-Spence's cellular telephone and two guns, including the .357 revolver used to shoot her, according to trial testimony.

Gardner's lawyer, Larry Polen, said yesterday that there had been no testimony about who fired the fatal shots. He pointed out that the purported mastermind of a plot to rob and kill Jones-Spence's husband has not been prosecuted in her death. Prosecutors and witnesses said Jones-Spence's death was an unintended result of that plot.

William Montgomery, 24, testified under an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in return for promising to provide information about crimes including the Randallstown killing. Montgomery, who has been found guilty in a Baltimore homicide, testified that he set up a plan to kill Darius Spence.

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