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Man guilty in slaying of deputy

The Long Beach resident is expected to get a prison term of 27 years to life in the 2006 shooting of Maria Rosa.

December 12, 2007|Tiffany Hsu | Times Staff Writer

In a courtroom filled with law enforcement officers, a Long Beach man was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder and attempted robbery in the March 2006 shooting death of an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.

Justin Ashley Flint, 21, had faced a possible life prison term without the possibility of parole for the March 2006 killing of Maria Rosa, but the jury cleared him of a special circumstance of committing murder in the course of a robbery. Flint now will likely get a prison term of about 27 years to life when he is sentenced Jan. 15, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Karen Thorp, one of the prosecutors.

During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury video clips of Flint in jail, singing Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" and calling Rosa, 30, a "bitch." The clips, which were made during an elaborate undercover investigation in which deputies posed as inmates and socialized with Flint, made the case especially emotional, Thorp said.

"It was a cold, heartless, senseless crime, and [Flint] has shown no remorse," Thorp said.

Rosa was killed outside a fellow deputy's Long Beach home in the early morning hours as she was getting into her car to go to work at the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles. Authorities initially feared that her killing was related to her work but later concluded that Flint and the alleged gunman, Frank Christopher Gonzalez, 27, happened upon her early that morning after riding their bicycles around a nearby bank ATM, looking for potential robbery victims.

They demanded Rosa's purse. She refused to comply and was trying to fire her gun when Gonzalez, who is awaiting trial, allegedly shot her.

Flint attorney Donald Herzstein said his client probably would appeal the verdict. At the time of his arrest, Flint was a meth addict at "the lowest of the low points in his life," Herzstein said.

Throughout Tuesday's court session, a clean-cut Flint glanced around the courtroom and grinned several times, a behavior Herzstein said was his client's way of expressing extreme fear and nervousness.

Rosa's sister, Sandra Sanchez, 40, was sitting outside the courtroom being comforted by a female deputy. Sanchez said she raised Rosa after their parents died when her sister was 13. Sanchez said she was shocked when Rosa decided to become a deputy.

"She was never a fighter -- she would always make me defend her," Sanchez said. "This makes me so happy that Flint won't hurt anyone again, but I still can't get my sister back. I never had the chance to tell her how proud I was of her."

Nearly 30 sheriff's deputies, many of whom had worked with Rosa, crowded the front seats of the Long Beach courtroom. Some smiled, others sighed as the verdict was read.

"All the deputies were depressed when they heard about her death, like the air was taken out of the room," said Max von Lutzow, who was Rosa's training officer when she joined the Sheriff's Department in 2000. "It's great to see justice done and to all be here to support each other."

Fellow deputies described Rosa as extremely focused and dedicated to her job processing incoming and outgoing prisoners at the Twin Towers' inmate reception center. She was born in Mexico, grew up in Gilroy, Calif., and was living in Pomona at the time of her death. Colleagues said she had a powerhouse smile.

"She was a very special individual who was very worthy to wear the badge," Von Lutzow said.

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tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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