Michael Saunders guilty of killing mother of his baby daughter

Michael Saunders, 50, of Yonkers, was convicted of killing Sabrina Durrah, 35, who was the mother of his 4-month-old baby. (March 19, 2013)

Michael Saunders, a Yonkers bus driver, faces the possibility of life behind bars after a Westchester County jury on Tuesday found him guilty of shooting to death the mother of his infant daughter.

Following a weeklong trial, Saunders, 50, was convicted of murdering 35-year-old Sabrina Durrah in White Plains on March 21, 2012.

Police found Durrah dead in her Main Street apartment three days later, together with her 4 1/2-month-old baby girl, who had been left to fend for herself.

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"As was shown at trial, this defendant was intent on eliminating two burdens, an emotional one and a financial one," District Attorney Janet DiFiore said after the verdict was announced. "The defendant planned and executed his scheme with cold calculation, murdering an ex-girlfriend and abandoning his own months-old infant daughter at the feet of his victim."

Saunders' lawyer did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

What sparked the killing, investigators said, was a text message Saunders received from Durrah on March 21, in which she said she intended to file court papers seeking child support from Saunders for their baby girl. Saunders was married to another woman, with whom he also had children.

He entered Durrah's apartment and shot her twice, once in the head and once in the chest, then walked out leaving the baby alone, lying next to her dead mother.

Durrah's relatives found her body and the baby three days later and called police. Upon hearing of the verdict, White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong praised the investigative work done by his detectives and the case presented by Westchester County prosecutors.

"They did an outstanding job," Chong said.

Chong said that the presence of the baby beside the dead mother had a profound impact on the detectives who handled the case. He called the killing "a heinous crime."

"The detectives took it personally," Chong said. "They wanted to get this guy and put together a solid case, and the verdict shows that they did."

Police found a neighbor who reported hearing gunshots about 8:30 p.m. on March 21.

Detectives found surveillance video from several cameras that showed Saunders outside the building at 312 Main St. that night, wearing a long-sleeved hooded sweatshirt and gloves, although the outside temperature was unusually warm, for March -- hitting 60 degrees in White Plains, that day. The low that day was 55 degrees, according to weather records.

Saunders also wore a hockey-style mask on his head that evening, which he pulled down over his face as he left the building, police said. He was arrested by White Plains detectives on March 27, 2012.

Saunders was convicted of all counts: second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree assault, and first-degree reckless endangerment, all felonies.

He is being held without bail at Westchester County Jail. He will be sentenced June 25 by Judge Barbara Zambelli. He faces life in prison.

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