A 21-year-old gang member was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in what authorities have characterized as the revenge killings of a South-Central Los Angeles minister’s wife and her teen-age son.
Eric Dicks, who was convicted by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury after a week of deliberations, could be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, the district attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors said Bessie Mae Ross, 54, and her son David, 15, an aspiring actor, were shot to death in September, 1985, when Dicks, a co-defendant, and another man went to their West 51st Street home seeking revenge against David’s brother, Tommy.
Deputy Dist. Atty. David S. Milton said the gunmen believed that Tommy Ross was involved in the death of Stanford Bursey, 24, who had been killed four days earlier. Tommy Ross, who was not home when his mother and brother were killed, is awaiting trial in Bursey’s death, Milton said.
Bessie Ross’ husband, Robert, a retired minister, was attending church at the time of the slayings. A third son, Leamon, hid in a closet in the home.
The prosecutor said he did not seek the death penalty against Dicks because he was only 18 at the time of the killings, he had no prior convictions and the ballistic evidence against him was inconclusive.
But Milton said he will seek the gas chamber for co-defendant Rodney Charles Glaze, who “orchestrated the retaliation.” Glaze will probably be tried next year, according to the prosecutor.
A third gang member, Benjamin Anthony Jones, was arrested last year, but he was later released for insufficient evidence.
Milton said the principal witnesses against Dicks during the 10-week trial were a friend in whom the defendant had confided and an eyewitness who had been using a public telephone 30 yards from the Ross house at the time of the killings.
Another friend of the defendant who had testified against him at the preliminary hearing was shot three times last March 24, one day before Dicks’ trial was supposed to start, Milton said. The witness survived but later recanted his statements, the prosecutor added.