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Man sentenced to prison for killing USC film student

Travion T. Ford, 25, gets to 16 years to life in the fatal stabbing of Bryan R. Frost, 23, a West Point cadet from Idaho, in a street fight near the university in 2008.

October 30, 2009|Larry Gordon

Travion T. Ford, a former usher at USC football games, was sentenced Thursday to 16 years to life in state prison for the fatal stabbing of a USC film student last year in a dispute sparked by the clang of a slammed gate at an apartment complex near the university.

The sentencing of Ford, 25, for second-degree murder came after emotional statements from relatives and friends of victim Bryan R. Frost, 23, a onetime West Point cadet from Idaho who had transferred to USC to study economics and then film.

Ford also spoke briefly in court in a voice barely above a whisper, insisting that he was not a murderer and did not start the brawl.

"If I could have avoided it, I would have," he said. "Hopefully, when I meet Bryan in the afterlife, we will talk about it."

Ford's public defender, Diane Butko, argued during the trial that he was fighting for his life against an aggressive and drunken college student.

Butko said Thursday that she had filed an appeal in the case, partly based on her contention that the trial judge had excluded important evidence about Frost's history of drinking. Frost's family denies that he had a drinking problem.

Frost's mother, Paige Lee, who traveled from Boise to Los Angeles County Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles, was among those who detailed the pain caused by the murder of her only child, a high-achieving student who wanted to direct movies.

"Never will he make his first film, never will he marry, never will he have children," she said.

Lee described how there would always be an empty chair left for Frost at holidays and an emotional wound for his family every day.

"I am forever broken," she said.

Lee said she had worried about her son living in tough neighborhoods near USC, but that he kept saying he was safe.

"His naivete from being raised in a small town didn't prepare him for the likes of you," Lee told Ford during the sentencing hearing.

The fight on Sept. 18, 2008, began when Frost and two friends, after a night of drinking, were walking past Ford's mother's apartment in the early morning hours and Frost noisily slammed shut an open metal sliding gate at the property.

Police said that Ford, after being bested in the first round of fighting, ran into his mother's apartment for a kitchen knife, came back outside and stabbed Frost in the heart.

In addition to the prison sentence, Judge George G. Lomeli ordered Ford to pay about $35,000 in restitution.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kennes Ma, who prosecuted the two-week trial, said he hoped the sentence will bring a sense of closure to both Frost's and Ford's families.

But he added that "it seems like, for both sides, it feels pretty unresolved. These are never situations where anyone is happy."

--

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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