A 51-year-old Anchorage woman was sentenced Tuesday to spend 35 years in prison for shooting and killing a stranger on the Fourth of July nearly three years ago.
It’s still not clear why Sharlene Townsend shot 66-year-old Donald Jordan that day. A motive was never disclosed in court documents or during a more than three-hour sentencing hearing in Anchorage Superior Court attended by family members of both Jordan and Townsend.
The day of the shooting on July 4, 2020, Townsend asked a friend to drive her to Mountain View and got out of the vehicle with a gun, Assistant District Attorney Whitney Bostick said during Tuesday’s hearing. Surveillance footage showed that Townsend walked up the street past Jordan, then walked back and waited until he sat down in his chair to fire at him multiple times, Bostick said.
Witnesses saw the shooting and helped identify Townsend, according to an affidavit written by an Anchorage Police Department detective summarizing police reports.
Townsend waved the gun toward the bystanders before returning to her friend’s nearby vehicle, Bostick said. Her friend confronted her about the shooting and tried to take the gun away, but was unable to get the weapon, the police affidavit said. During the struggle, Townsend threatened to shoot the friend and her family, Bostick said.
Townsend returned to the scene shortly after, but was wearing different clothing and styled her hair differently, the prosecutor said. Witnesses identified her as the shooter and she was taken to police headquarters for questioning. Investigators later found the gun, which was determined to be stolen, hidden in luggage that belonged to Townsend.
Townsend agreed to plead guilty last summer to second-degree murder, third-degree assault and second-degree theft. First- and second-degree murder charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Townsend’s attorney, public defender Julia Moudy, said Tuesday that Townsend was blacked out during the shooting and cannot recall what happened. Townsend has a long history of drug and alcohol addiction and also deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, Moudy said.
Anchorage police detective Christina Roberts, however, testified Tuesday that she did not note any signs of impairment when Townsend was interviewed.
Townsend told Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna during the hearing that she has been undergoing treatment programs while incarcerated at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center. Her son died in a car crash while she was incarcerated, Townsend said, and she’s lost a number of other friends and family. She feels “deep remorse” for her actions and plans to use the remainder of her time in prison to better herself, Townsend said.
She also apologized to Jordan’s family and asked for forgiveness. Townsend began to cry as she read her prepared statement and asked her attorney to read the rest of it.
“I’m so sorry to put you through this,” Moudy read from Townsend’s statement. “I’m sorry for the crime that I committed and not a day goes by that I don’t think about what I have done.”
Jordan’s death was heartbreaking for his large, tight-knit family, they said Tuesday. His daughter, brother and nieces spoke at the hearing about how their uncle loved his family and deeply cared about his neighborhood.
Jordan, who also went by the nickname Bama because he grew up in Alabama, moved to Mountain View in the 1980s after serving in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Army, his daughter Sasha Jordan said. Donald Jordan took pride in his service and was buried in his uniform, Sasha Jordan said.
Donald Jordan was “a legend in Mountain View,” his brother Michael M.J. Jordan said. He loved to sit outside and talk with people, which is what he was doing the day he was shot, his brother said.
“He was a person that would take people in if they needed to be taken in, he would help feed people,” he said.
Mountain View has been a central part of their lives, Sasha Jordan said. Her father moved to Texas to be closer to her for several years, but returned home to Anchorage in 2018 to be closer to other family who lived in the neighborhood while he underwent treatment for prostate cancer, his daughter said.
It’s difficult not knowing why Donald Jordan was killed, his brother said. There’s a sense of relief and closure now that the court proceedings are done, but Michael M.J. Jordan said he had hoped for a longer sentence.
McKenna sentenced Townsend to serve 35 years in prison and 10 years of probation after she’s released.