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Teacher describes teen’s changing gender identity before slaying

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E.O. Green Junior High teacher Dawn Boldrin on Friday recounted how she let her student Larry King know that she supported him as he began asserting a more feminine identity at their Oxnard school.

She bought him nail polish and offered him makeup tips when he showed up in class with a little too much eye shadow, Boldrin told a Chatsworth courtroom. Another day she handed him a shimmering green formal dress tucked into a leopard-print gift bag.

On Feb. 12, 2008, at the start of the school day, she cautioned him to respect other students in the same way that he wanted them to respect him for being gay and dressing like a girl.

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“I said, ‘I think it’s great. I support you. But you can’t make everyone believe what you believe and it’s not your right to make them try,’ ” Boldrin recounted of the few moments they spoke as they walked to a computer lab.

It will never be known whether King, 15, would have heeded his English composition teacher’s advice. Within a half-hour, classmate Brandon McInerney had shot him twice in the back of the head in the lab, killing him.

McInerney, now 17, is being tried as an adult for first-degree murder with a hate crime charge. The prosecution contends that he decided to kill King because of the flamboyant youth’s dress and taunting comments.

The defense admits McInerney, who had just turned 14, pulled the trigger. But it was a heat-of-the-moment decision provoked by King, they say, arguing that it constitutes manslaughter, not murder.

Friday’s testimony began with Avery L., a friend of King’s since elementary school. She told the courtroom that campus rumors were swirling the afternoon of Feb. 11, 2008, about King making some kind of flirtatious comment to McInerney and blowing him kisses.

She didn’t actually see any of that, Avery testified, but something unusual did happen that afternoon. McInerney approached her during one of the passing periods with a message, she said.

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“Brandon went up to me and said, ‘Say goodbye to Larry because I wasn’t going to see him again,’ ” the 16-year-old testified. “Then he smiled a weird smile.”

Avery also told the court that she saw McInerney drawing Nazi iconography during an English class and that once after school she saw him hanging out with older boys with swastika tattoos on their arms. Defense attorney Scott Wippert pointed out that Avery added additional details about McInerney each time she talked to investigators, and suggested that she was embellishing her facts.

Boldrin matter-of-factly relayed her recollections of King as a sweet, immature eighth-grader who had transformed in the weeks before his death into someone determined to assert a new gender identity.

When students in her class teased him or talked about him, she shut them down, Boldrin said. “I’d tell them my classroom wasn’t the place to joke around about that,” she testified. “I have a homosexual in my family. I respect the people, I respect the community and I didn’t appreciate their comments.”

That morning, McInerney took a seat behind King because he didn’t have a paper to work on like the rest of the class, Boldrin said. As she was helping other students she heard what she thought was a computer blowing up.

She looked over and saw McInerney standing with smoke around him. She shouted “What the hell are you doing Brandon!” Relaying what happened next was the only time Boldrin became emotional on the stand.

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“I believe at that time there was a second shot,” she said, tearing up.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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