With former football star Kermit Alexander and other family members somberly looking on, a Los Angeles gang member was convicted Tuesday of four counts of first-degree murder in the execution-style shootings of Alexander's mother and three other relatives.
Tiequon Aundray Cox, 19, described as the triggerman in the August, 1984, slayings, sat expressionless as the jury announced its verdict to Superior Court Judge Roger Boren after a trial that lasted less than a week.
It took the jury only a few hours to reach its verdict. Jurors will return Jan. 29 to decide if Cox should receive the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole for his part in the killings.
"It was a verdict that could have been foreseen," Deputy Dist. Atty. Sterling E. Norris said outside the courtroom. "We had a very strong case."
Family Members 'Pleased'
The Alexander family members, who rushed from the courtroom without comment, were "pleased with the verdict," Norris said. " But to talk about it still hurts."
Cox is the second of three gang members to be convicted in the slayings of Ebora Alexander, 58; her daughter, Dietra, 24, and grandsons Damani Garner, 13, and Damon Bonner, 8.
Gang member Horace Burns, 20, was sentenced to life without possibility of parole after a seven-week trial last year and Darren Charles Williams, 24, still is awaiting trial.
The killings attracted widespread publicity not only because of the link to Alexander, a former UCLA and Los Angeles Rams defensive back, but also because the murders appeared to be a case of mistaken identity.
Possibly Wrong Address
Trial testimony revealed that the gang members may have misread the address on Ebora Alexander's South-Central Los Angeles home before bursting inside and opening fire.
In presenting the case against Cox, prosecutor Norris identified the defendant as "the man that walked in and actually did the executions." Norris said that after shooting Ebora Alexander with his M-1 rifle, Cox boasted to friends, "I blew the bitch's head off."
Cox's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Edward Cook, who declined to present a defense on behalf of his client, called his tactic "trial strategy . . . which I'll be happy to explain when the penalty phase is over."
Norris, however, said the defense strategy of "going to the penalty phase with the entire defense" is not unusual in a case with such "strong" evidence.
The prosecutor said he will press for jurors to recommend the death penalty during the penalty phase. "Our major thrust will be the actual four murders themselves," he said. "They went in with the intention of killing everyone in the family."
According to testimony by witnesses, gang member Burns waited in a van outside the Alexander home while Cox and Williams headed inside to carry out the early morning killings.
Ebora Alexander was shot in the head as she sat sipping a morning cup of coffee while the three other family members were killed as they lay in bed.
Norris had suggested at various times during the Burns trial that the killers had intended to retaliate for a narcotics-related shoot-out or had been engaged in a contract killing.
Cox, unable to come up with $1 to buy gasoline the morning of the Alexander shootings, plunked down several thousand dollars to buy a Cadillac later that day, Norris said.
"Money motivated the killing," he said.
There was no indication during the trial exactly how or from whom Cox got the money.
Attorneys estimated the penalty phase could last as long as two weeks.