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Jury deadlocks on murder count

November 18, 2009|Scott Glover and Joel Rubin

A once-promising high school football star accused of fatally shooting the mother of a young woman who was expected to testify against him in a robbery case was convicted Tuesday of attempting to intimidate a witness, but the jury deadlocked on the more serious charges against him.

Tyquan Knox, 21, was charged with robbing Khristina Henry and her boyfriend three years ago, then killing Henry's mother, Pamela Lark, in an effort to dissuade the girl from testifying against him. Knox feared that a conviction would ruin his chances of being recruited to play college football, the prosecution contended.

The conviction on the attempted intimidation charge was based on a series of text messages and telephone calls to Henry and Lark, primarily by Knox's mother and friends. His mother contended that Knox was innocent and allegedly asked what she could do to make the case go away. At least one friend of Knox's suggested that Henry should not testify. During one telephone call, Knox himself got on the phone, according to testimony.

Lark and Henry told police they felt threatened by the contacts and asked authorities for financial help to relocate. They were in the process of looking for a place to live when Lark was killed Jan. 4, 2007.

Jurors had deliberated for five days before announcing that they were hopelessly deadlocked on the robbery and murder counts against Knox. The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers, told Judge Michael E. Pastor that her office had already decided to retry Knox on all counts.

Defense attorney John Sweeney said that he saw the mistrial as a relative victory.

Though it was Knox who was on trial for murder, the case seemed at times to revolve almost entirely around his former girlfriend Keeairra Dashiell. Dashiell, an honors student at Crenshaw High School who earned a scholarship to UC San Diego, reluctantly entered into a plea deal with prosecutors in which she agreed to testify against Knox in exchange for a seven-year sentence for her role in the slaying.

Dashiell testified that she called Knox to wake him up early on the morning they planned to commit the crime and drove him to the neighborhood where Henry and Lark lived. She said Knox was armed with a gun and dressed all in black when he got out his car. He returned a couple of hours later, lay back in the passenger's seat so as not be seen and told her to drive, she said.

On the eve of her testimony, Dashiell dealt a blow to the prosecution when she acknowledged that she had earlier plotted to kill Henry with another man and that Knox knew nothing of the plan. Jurors were so mistrustful of Dashiell's testimony that they disregarded it altogether, said jury foreman Jules Vallier.

The verdict on the robbery counts was 9 to 3 in favor of guilt. The verdict on the murder count was 8 to 4, also in favor of guilt.

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scott.glover@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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