Man gets 16 years to life in prison for killing former MLB player

Rodney Craig, pictured in the Narbonne High School 1975 yearbook.
(Narbonne High School)

A 33-year-old man has been sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for killing a former Major League Baseball outfielder at a homeless encampment.

Billy Morales, a homeless man, was convicted by a jury in January of second-degree murder in the 2013 death of Rodney Craig, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The jury also found that Morales used a knife during the violent attack. He was sentenced Monday.

Craig, a Los Angeles native, was living on the streets and tried to set up camp on Aug. 17, 2013, at a homeless encampment in downtown Los Angeles. Those living at the encampment didn’t want Craig, 56, to stay, so they kicked him out, according to prosecutor Jacqueline Mac.

As he walked away, he tried to kick a dog belonging to someone at the camp.


Morales and a second man, identified as Anthony Johnson, chased and grabbed Craig, who they kicked and punched, she said.

During the attack, Craig was stabbed once in the chest.

Johnson, 24, was arrested and pleaded no contest to assault. He was sentenced in August to six years in prison. Johnson didn’t know Morales had a knife and planned to kill Craig.

Craig played parts of four seasons, from 1979 to 1986, for the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. He was the first player to sign and be developed by the Mariners who reached the majors.

It is unclear how and when Craig ended up living on the streets of downtown L.A.

His friend Gregory Sampson told The Times he last saw Craig in 2001 when the former baseball player’s mother died. Craig refused to believe his mother died, Sampson said.

Court records show Craig accumulated a list of charges, ranging from trespassing to assault across the U.S.

In El Paso, Craig was charged with striking a homeless man on the head with a rock during a fight in July 2004. He told a public defender he was acting in self-defense and was sent to a state psychiatric hospital.

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