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Fourth defendant sentenced in beating death of USC student from China

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Alberto Ochoa appears in Los Angeles Superior Court with his attorney, Christopher C. Chaney, in 2018. Ochoa was sentenced Friday to life in prison in the 2014 murder of Xinran Ji, a USC student from China.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday in connection with the 2014 beating death of a USC graduate student from China, prosecutors said.

Alberto Ochoa, 22, was convicted of murder last year in the death of Xinran Ji, a 24-year-old engineering student. Ochoa is the fourth and final person sentenced in the attack, bringing to a close a chapter that sent shock waves through the USC community.

He was found guilty in December of one count each of first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree robbery and attempted second-degree robbery, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors said Ochoa and three others attacked Ji while trying to rob him as he was walking home from a study group near campus June 24, 2014.

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Alejandra Guerrero, Jonathan Del Carmen and Andrew Garcia were also convicted in Ji’s killing. Prosecutors said Ochoa hit Ji with a bat before he ran away. Garcia then chased him down.

Though Ji eventually escaped his assailants, a trail of blood traced the quarter-mile path he walked back to his apartment, where a roommate found him dead hours later, authorities said.

The group targeted Ji because he was Chinese and they assumed he had money, prosecutors said.

Guerrero, who was 16 at the time of the attack, was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

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Prosecutors said that, after the attack, Garcia and the rest of the group drove to Dockweiler State Beach, where they accosted and robbed a couple. Garcia was convicted of robbery for the beach incident, along with attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and first-degree murder in the attack on Ji.

Del Carmen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Ji’s death rattled the university, particularly its Chinese community. Parents and family members of students gathered in Beijing, seeking answers about the brutal killing, and dozens of students descended on the downtown Los Angeles courthouse to observe court proceedings.

About 5,600 of USC’s 11,300 international students are from China, according to figures published on the university’s website.

Ji’s death came amid a string of violent incidents linked to the university. In 2012, two Chinese graduate students were shot and killed in a botched robbery near campus. Six months later, a man fired gunshots in the middle of campus, outside a Halloween party. The shooting injured four people; none were USC students.

In response, USC improved security and added unarmed security “ambassadors” in off-campus neighborhoods. International graduate students were also required to complete a safety education program.

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.


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