2 Men Guilty of Separate Killings Get Life Sentences
Two men convicted of two separate 6-year-old San Fernando Valley murders were sentenced to life in prison Thursday, pleasing relatives of the victims who had demanded the most stringent penalty the law allows.
Superior Court Judge J.D. Smith sentenced LaCedrick Johnson to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Johnson, a member of an armed robbery ring, was driving the getaway car when Laurie Myles, 37, was killed outside her daughter’s Northridge Bible study class.
Smith sent 35-year-old Shashonee Solomon, who ordered the murder of his girlfriend after she broke off their relationship, to prison for 38 years to life, the maximum. Solomon will not face a parole board until at least 2026, when he would be 62 years old.
“I hope whatever you get, you get it good,” Razmik Tarkhanian, father of Solomon’s victim, 20-year-old Talin Kara Tarkhanian, told the defendant before he was sentenced.
Deputy Dist. Attys. Janice Maurizi and Edwin Greene had alleged that Johnson, 24, was also involved in Tarkhanian’s murder, but jurors could not agree. Prosecutors decided against retrial because Johnson would not serve any more time in prison if convicted of the second murder. Jurors also could not agree whether Solomon’s crime involved special circumstances that would have made him eligible for the death penalty.
“It was a really difficult trial for the family of the victim, and they really did not want to go through that ordeal again,” Maurizi said. “I don’t believe he’ll ever be released on parole.”
A third and final defendant, Etienne Michael Moore, 25, a former Faith Baptist High school basketball star, was convicted in both murders. Prosecutors said he was the triggerman in both the Myles slaying and Tarkhanian’s murder, which they say he carried out to win his “stripes” in a gang. Prosecutors said he deserved to die for his crimes, but jurors could not agree on a penalty, voting 10-2 for death for Tarkhanian’s murder and 9-3 for death in the Myles killing. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to retry him.
The robbers followed cars into upper-middle-class neighborhoods and robbed the occupants at gunpoint in their driveways. But an accomplice testified that they were twice foiled by screaming victims and that the most they usually got from their victims was about $20--only a few dollars apiece at the end of the night.
“They essentially terrorized the San Fernando Valley,” Greene said. “This is what they were doing that summer and fall, robbing people and making a living doing it.”
During the four-month trial, prosecutors put on evidence that Myles was just another robbery victim who apparently got nervous and did not hand over her purse and briefcase quickly enough for Moore. She was fatally shot inches away from her son, then 9 years old.
“You deserve everything you’re going to get,” David Hicks, Myles’ brother, said to Johnson before he was sentenced. “If I had my way, I’d put my hands around your neck and snap it.”
Judge Smith said that Johnson’s “inexcusable” crimes earned him a lifetime behind bars.
“I don’t know what the hell you were thinking,” Smith told the defendant. “While most people will be out celebrating holidays, you’re going to be in prison for the rest of your life. Your actions won’t be tolerated by anyone.”
Maurizi said that Solomon, whose penalty is lighter than the others--he has the possibility of one day walking out of prison--in some ways committed a worse crime than the other defendants.
“He had this attitude that ‘I can play God, and I can decide who lives and dies, and I don’t have to get my hands dirty,’ ” Maurizi said.
Tarkhanian--who was studying to become a social worker, who sent money to starving children around the world and who often visited Juvenile Hall to counsel troubled youths--had been dating Solomon a few months when she decided to break it off, her mother said.
When she did, he went to her office and fired a gun, then fled to Sacramento. Her mother, Jasmen Tarkhanian, is still angry that authorities did not hunt him down and arrest him immediately because she’s convinced it would have spared her daughter’s life.
Her husband is even angrier at parole boards that had released Solomon after his imprisonment for earlier violent crimes. He said they have his daughter’s “blood on their hands.”
“God forbid if you get a sentence that allows you a chance at parole. I hope the [parole board] finds this letter,” Razmik Tarkhanian said, reading a prepared statement that he asked Smith to put in the criminal court file. “If they release you again, they will have other innocent people’s blood on their hands.”
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