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Teenage Girl Convicted for Role in Actor's Killing

March 17, 2004|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

A teenage girl was found guilty Tuesday of helping two men kill popular young actor Merlin Santana, making a clean sweep for prosecutors, who earlier won convictions against her two codefendants.

Monique King lied to her two accomplices by saying the actor had made sexual advances toward her; she also helped them get away after they shot Santana, said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler.

Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder charge against King, 17, in connection with the Nov. 9, 2002, shooting, which took place shortly after the actor left another man's home in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles.

Santana, 26, of North Hollywood was best known for his role as Romeo Santana on "The Steve Harvey Show."

Fidler, trying the case without a jury, found King guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder. He acquitted King on two lesser charges.

King, a runaway who was 15 at the time of her arrest, is scheduled to be sentenced April 20. Prosecutors, who tried her as an adult, agreed that King would be sentenced to the California Youth Authority and held until age 25.

"This case was tragic all around," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Dohi.

"Merlin Santana was a very gifted actor and his murder was utterly senseless. Monique King has had a miserable childhood and this verdict punishes her fairly and gives her a chance to turn her life around."

Brandon Douglas Bynes, 25, pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon in the case. He was sentenced last week to 23 years in prison.

Damien Andre Gates, 21, was convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying and sentenced in February to 70 years to life in prison.

The three were arrested soon after the killing of Santana.

Prosecutors said that Santana and a friend had been at a nearby home with King the night of the murder. King left, then later returned outside the residence with Bynes and Gates.

King told the men that Santana and his friend had made sexual advances toward her, police said.Santana and his friend were about to leave when one of the men shot him in the head as he sat in the passenger seat of a car. The friend drove off and flagged down a police car. Santana died at the scene.

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