Three men were found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder and other charges connected to the killing of a La Jolla High School graduate lured to a late-night robbery in Paradise Hills by a Craigslist ad for a laptop computer.
The family of victim Garrett Berki cried in San Diego Superior Court as verdicts were read for Seandell Jones, Shaquille Jordan and Rashon Abernathy after four days of jury deliberations.
One relative left the downtown courtoom of Judge Kerry Wells in the middle of the verdicts.
Afterward, one family lashed out at media in the court hallway, cursing and declaring: “This is not the truth.”
All three—wearing blue dress shirts in court—also were found guilty of robbery, vehicle theft and firing into an occupied vehicle. But they were cleared of gang-related charges.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2013, the court was told.
Abernathy was charged with 19-year-old friends Jones and Jordan in the May 11, 2011, robbery-murder of 18-year-old Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High.
Abernathy, 18, also was charged with stealing $600 from a Navy man who responded to a Craigslist ad to buy a similar computer on May 5, 2011.
In addition to murder and robbery, the defendants were charged with shooting into an occupied vehicle, auto theft and an allegation that the crimes were committed for the benefit of a street gang.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha said Berki died because Abernathy “brought a gun to a robbery.”
The prosecutor said Berki went to Paradise Hills about 10 p.m. with his
girlfriend to buy a MacBook Pro computer advertised on Craigslist for $600. The defendants grabbed the money and the victims’ cell phones and got into a stolen car driven by Jordan, he said.
Berki and his girlfriend were headed to report the theft when he spotted the defendants’ car and gave chase on state Route 54, Trocha said. The cars exited the freeway several miles away and ended up front-to-front in a cul-de-sac.
Abernathy allegedly fired one shot through the windshield of the victims’ car, striking Berki in the shoulder. He died about 45 minutes later.
Jordan drove off but crashed the car in a nearby cul-de-sac and the defendants ran off, only to be arrested a short time later, Trocha said.
"Everybody makes choices in life... I think they chose to join a gang, they chose to rob Garrett Berki—so now they have to live with those consequences," Trocha told reporters after the verdict was announced.
Sentencing will take place on Jan. 25, 2012.
—City News Service contributed to this report.