Three teens accused in Craigslist murder plead not guilty - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Three teens accused in Craigslist murder plead not guilty

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — An 18-year-old college student died from a bullet to his chest as he chased three teens who robbed him and his girlfriend when he was buying a computer advertised on Craigslist for $600, a prosecutor said Friday.

Details of the killing emerged at an arraignment for three 17-year-old males who were charged as adults with murder, robbery and shooting at an occupied vehicle.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Brannigan entered not guilty pleas on their behalf and set bail at $5 million each — $3 million higher than the amount sought by prosecutors.

Prosecutors have said Garrett Berki died late Wednesday after he and his girlfriend met suspects Rashon Abernathy, Seandell Jones and Shaquille Jordan in San Diego to buy an Apple MacBook Pro. One teen pulled a gun and robbed the couple of cash and their cell phones, authorities said.

A car chase followed, with Berki pursuing the assailants on a freeway and city streets before he was shot as he tried to box them in on a dead-end street, prosecutor Kristian Trocha told reporters. Abernathy is suspected of firing a single shot from the back seat, shattering Berki's windshield, Trocha said.

Police said Berki, a San Diego community college student, was trying to read his assailants' license plate during the pursuit. Officers found him slumped over the steering wheel, and he died less than an hour later at a hospital.

All three suspects were arrested within minutes of the shooting, hiding in back yards after crashing their car in a cul-de-sac about two blocks from the shooting scene, authorities said.

Patricia Dykes, Jordan's mother, told reporters her son was "hurting" because someone got killed. She said he was a straight-A student preparing to graduate from high school. She emphasized that he was not accused of pulling the trigger.

"He told me he's going to write a letter to the (victim's) family that he's sorry for whatever happened, but that he didn't ... do anything violent to anyone," Dykes said.

Shearese Johnson, the mother of Jones, said her son didn't kill anyone and called the charges unfair. Jones is suspected of being the getaway driver after the robbery.

"All I'm going to say is I love my son, and I'm here, and this just isn't fair," Johnson said.

If convicted, the three teens could face maximum sentences of life in prison, prosecutors said.

Trocha told reporters all three were equally responsible for the death, even though Abernathy is the only one accused of firing a gun.

"All of them participated in the robbery. The murder was part of this robbery in trying to escape," Trocha said. "It's as if they pulled the trigger themselves."

Trocha said all three defendants were gang members — a claim met with skepticism by the two mothers.

Kevin Milmoe, a public defender, said Abernathy and Jordan had no criminal record.

The judge said he would appoint a public defender for each of the three teens.


This is an update to the story. A previous story is below.


SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Three teenage gang members 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 pleaded not guilty Friday to murder, robbery and other charges.

Rashon Abernathy, Seandell Jones and Shaquille Jordan, all 17, were each ordered held on $5 million bail in the shooting death Wednesday night of 18-year-old Garrett Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High School.

The victim lived with his mother in Mission Beach and attended Mesa College.

Although they are minors, the defendants were charged directly in adult court. They each face 50 years to life in prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha told Judge Joseph Brannigan that Berki and his girlfriend went to Paradise Hills to buy the computer, and when the victim pulled out his money, one of the defendants pulled out a handgun and robbed the victims of the cash and their cellphones.

The prosecutor said Berki and his girlfriend saw the defendants get into a car driven by Jones and followed the suspect vehicle onto the freeway and back onto surface streets.

When Berki tried to box in the suspect vehicle in a cul-de-sac, Abernathy -- seated behind the driver -- fired one shot through the windshield striking the victim in the chest, Trocha alleged. Berki died at a hospital.

Trocha said the defendants fled and crashed their car near the crime scene, but were captured in the backyards of homes in the area.

He said the computer supposedly up for sale -- an Apple MacBook Pro -- was recovered, along with an expended .45-caliber shell casing.

Without being specific, Trocha said two of the defendants were documented gang members and the other was a gang member.

Besides murder, the defendants are charged with two counts of robbery and one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle.

A status conference was set for May 20 and a preliminary hearing for May 26.


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