Three teenagers accused of killing a USC graduate student near campus should stand trial on murder and robbery charges, a judge ruled Thursday, citing "overwhelming evidence" against them.
Alejandra Guerrero, Alberto Ochoa and Jonathan DelCarmen sat silently in court as Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria announced her decision at the end of a three-day preliminary hearing.
Each faces one count of murdering Xinran Ji as well as a special-circumstance allegation that the killing was committed during an attempted robbery. Guerrero and Ochoa are also accused of using a dangerous weapon -- a blue metal bat -- in the attack.
Guerrero, 16, and Ochoa, 17, are also charged with robbery, attempted robbery and assault in connection with another attack at Dockweiler State Beach a few hours after Ji was killed. DelCarmen, 19, was driving the group of teens that night, according to testimony in the case, but is not charged in the Dockweiler Beach incident.
During the preliminary hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney played security videos of the attack on Ji that took place a few hundred feet from the USC campus. Ji, who was returning from a study session just past midnight on July 24, could be seen fleeing down Orchard Avenue before he was caught by multiple people and beaten. A roommate found Ji’s bloodied body in his bed the next morning.
The three teens admitted in interviews with police that the group had targeted Ji as part of a robbery and later confronted two people at the beach, a detective said in court Wednesday.
A few hours later, the group was involved in a robbery at the beach, where a man was attacked with a baseball bat and a woman was held up at knifepoint, authorities allege.
The three defendants bound for trial were accompanied in the car by two others: Andrew Garcia, 19, and a teenage girl, according to testimony. Proceedings against Garcia were suspended pending a hearing to determine his mental competency. The teenage girl, who prosecutors said was not involved in Ji's killing, has been charged separately as a juvenile in connection with the Dockweiler Beach incident.
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