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Closing Arguments Continue in Craiglist Killing Case

The teens are accused of killing La Jolla High grad Garrett Berki after luring him to a late-night robbery in Paradise Hills by posting a $600 computer for sale on Craigslist.

Closing arguments will continue today in the trial of Rashon Abernathy, Seandell Jones and Shaquille Jordan. The teenage gang members are accused of killing a young college student after luring him to a late-night robbery in Paradise Hills by posting a $600 computer for sale on Craigslist.

The three should be convicted of first-degree murder, a prosecutor said Thursday.   

Abernathy, 18, is charged with friends Jones, 19, and 18-year-old Jordan in the May 11, 2011, robbery and death of 18-year-old Garrett Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High School.   

Abernathy is also 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 homicide and robbery, the defendants are 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.”   

“(Berki) showed up to a robbery orchestrated by these three defendants,” Trocha told the jury.   

The prosecutor said Abernathy knew the gun was loaded and even went online to see how it worked.   

Trocha said Abernathy used fake names to advertise computers on Craigslist, inviting the victims to meet him in areas several blocks from his home.   

Once they arrived, Abernathy would act nervous and tell them he'd been robbed before, saying, “Let me see the money,” Trocha said.   

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. Abernathy wanted to see the money, but Berki wanted to see the computer, Trocha said.   

The defendants grabbed the money and the victims' cell phones and got into a stolen car driven by Jordan, the prosecutor alleged.   

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, only to be arrested a short time later, Trocha said.   

Later in a holding cell, the defendants admitted their roles in the robbery-homicide, the prosecutor said.   

Abernathy's attorney, Kathleen Coyne, told the jury that her client admitting doing the robberies and brandishing a gun, but was not guilty of murder. The attorney said her client should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.   

Coyne said Abernathy didn't know the gun that killed Berki was loaded, and it discharged accidentally when Jordan suddenly hit the brakes. She said Abernathy was not a gang member and thought of the Craigslist robbery scam on his own.  

When the shooting happened, the robbery was over, Coyne said.   

“This is a tragedy, but it's not a murder,” she told the jury.

—City News Service

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