Two men were sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a convenience store clerk's murder during an attempted robbery they committed amid a series of hold-ups throughout the Los Angeles area.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta called 22-year-old Rasheen Childs and 21-year-old Bryant S. Moore "serial robbers" who preyed on clerks at gas stations and convenience stores.
The judge noted that Childs gunned down 31-year-old Gonzalo Garcia as the victim ran away during an attempted robbery at a 7-Eleven store in Highland Park on Dec. 22, 2013, and that "the crime spree did not stop" after Garcia's killing.
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Moore's attorney, Jeffrey Brodey, told the victim's family his client "feels terrible about the loss that the family suffered."
The defense lawyer objected to the life sentence on behalf of his client, but the judge said the term was mandated by the state Legislature.
Two of the victim's cousins spoke about the impact of Garcia's killing, telling the judge he was killed just before Christmas.
Elizabeth Duenas told reporters outside court that Christmas — which was their cousin's favorite holiday — will never be the same again.
"He had not seen his parents for 14 years," she said, noting that he had immigrated to the United States to support his family and wound up being sent home to Mexico in a casket.
Another one of his cousins, Teresa Duenas, said it had been a long, painful experience and she is "glad that we can start healing now."
"Everybody lost here," she said.
Childs and Moore were convicted Feb. 23 of first-degree murder and attempted robbery in connection with Garcia's killing, with jurors finding true the special circumstance allegation that Garcia was slain during the commission of an attempted robbery.
The seven-woman, five-man panel additionally found Childs guilty of 18 counts of second-degree robbery and one count of false imprisonment by violence. Those charges stemmed from a series of robberies between Dec. 11, 2013, and Jan. 2, 2014, in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Gardena and Carson, according to Deputy District Attorney Robert Song.
Moore was additionally convicted of 10 counts of second-degree robbery and one count of false imprisonment by violence.
Along with life in prison without the possibility of parole, the judge tacked on terms of 104 years and eight months to life for Childs and 19 years for Moore.
A third defendant, Eric Tyrone Carter, 24, was convicted in February by a separate jury of seven counts of second-degree robbery for his involvement in some of the hold-ups. He was sentenced last week to nearly 40 years in state prison.