District attorney to seek death penalty against Pittsburgh pair in fatal party bus shooting

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The Allegheny County District Attorney announced Thursday that he will seek the death penalty against two men accused in the shooting death of another who had just gotten off a party bus headed from the South Side to Sheraden last spring.

James Lawrence, 21, of the East Hills and Michael Lyons, 22, of Homewood are accused of killing Steven Lee, 21, of McKees Rocks on March 30.

If the men are found guilty of first-degree murder, a jury would have to decide if they should be sentenced to death or be given life in prison without parole.

A group of women was on the bus that night and got into an argument with others on board who had been celebrating a birthday.

At one point, Samantha Powe, 30, of Garfield made a phone call and said, "You need to come over and smoke these people," according to the criminal complaint.

Clarrissa Clark was also on the phone and asked the bus driver to stop in Sheraden, at which point Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Lyons, along with a third man, arrived.

They boarded the bus, and Mr. Lawrence pointed a gun at Lee's sister and escorted her off. Lee also exited the bus, and police said Ms. Clark then said, "Spank them. I want those two," and the men opened fire, killing Lee. His sister was not injured.

Ms. Clark and Summer Kerley, both of Sheraden, were arrested for soliciting the killing.

Powe was found shot to death on a dead-end street in Homewood in July, and Mr. Lawrence has been identified as a suspect.

Mr. Lawrence also is charged in the Feb. 28 slaying in Beltzhoover of Tiona Jackson, a 28-year-old nurse and mother of six. Last month, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. announced he would seek the death penalty against Mr. Lawrence's co-defendant in that case, Dorian Peebles.

Mr. Zappala listed three aggravating circumstances in seeking capital punishment against Lyons, including that the killing occurred during the perpetration of a felony, that he knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person, and that he has a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence.

The district attorney's office expects to have a fourth aggravating factor for Mr. Lawrence -- if, by the time the Lee case goes to trial, he has already been convicted in Jackson's death.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. Twitter: @PaulaReedWard. First Published October 3, 2013 3:00 PM


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