As members of former pro football player Kermit Alexander’s family sobbed “Thank you, Jesus,” a Los Angeles Superior Court jury recommended the death penalty Tuesday for a gang member described as the triggerman in the 1984 execution-style murders of Alexander’s mother and three other relatives.
Tiequon Aundray Cox, 19, remained impassive as the verdict was read, although he later knocked over a chair, apparently in anger, when the proceeding ended.
Alexander family members, however, shrieked at the first mention of the death penalty and the mother of one of the murder victims and a family friend were so overcome by emotion that Alexander himself escorted them from the courtroom before the individual jurors were polled. Other relatives were whisked away immediately after the court session.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sterling E. Norris, the prosecutor, said the family was “very pleased” with the jury’s recommendation but planned to make no formal statement.
“I think it’s a very justified verdict,” Norris said. “The man has to be one of the most vicious criminals . . . I’ve handled in a long time.”
Cox was convicted Jan. 21 of four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Ebora Alexander, 58; her daughter Dietra, 24, and grandsons Damani Garner, 13, and Damon Bonner, 8. It was Damani’s mother, Geraldine, who had to leave the courtroom with Alexander on Tuesday.
The same jury that rendered the murder verdicts took two days to reach its death penalty recommendation. The sentence was agreed to on Thursday, but the decision was sealed until Tuesday because Judge Roger W. Boren was out of town.
Last year, Horace Burns, 20, who is believed to have waited in a van outside the Alexander family home while the others carried out the killings, was convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after a seven-week trial.
Darren Charles Williams, 24, “the one who set the operation up,” according to Norris, is awaiting trial. The prosecution will also seek the death penalty for him.
Trial testimony suggested that the victims were killed by mistake on the morning of Aug. 31, after the gang members, perhaps having misread the address on the door, burst into Ebora Alexander’s South-Central Los Angeles home and opened fire. The mother of the former UCLA and NFL defensive back was shot in the head while she sipped coffee, and the other three were shot to death in their beds.
The prosecution theorized during the trial that the killers may have actually intended to retaliate for a narcotics-related shoot-out, or had been hired for a contract killing at another home in the neighborhood.
Norris said he would show in the Williams trial that the killers received $60,000 for the contract killing of an entire family, but he declined to say why or by whom the multiple murders were ordered.
The prosecutor said authorities ruled out earlier speculation that the killings may have been narcotics-related. The story about retaliation for a soured drug deal, he said, was concocted by Burns so fellow gang members would not realize that considerable sums of money had changed hands.
Norris was unable to specify Cox’s share of the take, but he noted that the defendant had paid $3,000 for a Cadillac on the day of the Alexander shootings.
Cox’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Edward M. Cook III, did not present a defense at the trial, but argued during the penalty phase that his client was “not the shooter. . . . C. W. (Williams) was the shooter. . . . We feel that Tiequon was being used by C. W.”
Cook said Cox did not deserve the death penalty because witnesses’ descriptions of the gunman pointed to Williams, not his client.
Dismissing Cook’s contention, Norris said, “The evidence that he (Cox) was the triggerman is overwhelming.”
Boren set a sentencing hearing for March 18.