Tyquan Knox had been a football star at Crenshaw High School with college…
A high school football star, whose athletic talent could have delivered him from the streets of South Los Angeles to a college campus, was convicted Monday of murdering the mother of a girl who was set to testify against him in a robbery case.
The verdict against Tyquan Knox, 23, comes after two previous trials ended in hung juries. This time, jurors concluded that Knox, a standout wide receiver at Crenshaw High School who had attracted the attention of college recruiters from several top-tier schools, was the gunman who strode up to Pamela Lark in a parking lot one morning early in 2007, put a gun to her face and fired five times.
"It's been 4 1/2 years of working to bring this guy to justice," said Danette Meyers, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted all three trials. "He destroyed this family and he attacked our system of justice by trying to scare the hell out this witness by killing her mother."
The killing and the effect it had on the people involved was the subject of a two-part series in The Times.
Lark was the mother of Khristina Henry. Several months before the killing, Henry,17, had been robbed at gunpoint along with her boyfriend outside of a bowling alley. Lark insisted that Henry report it to police, telling her that it was her duty to do so. The girl met with detectives from the LAPD and identified Knox as the assailant from a photographic lineup.
Over the next few months, Knox's mother and other acquaintances contacted Lark and Henry in an effort to dissuade the teenager from testifying against Knox. "You better watch your back," Henry remembered being told by a mutual acquaintance. "It's best that you guys not go to court."
Knox had already missed his best opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship to college. During his senior year at Crenshaw High, he had been kicked off the football team after a physical altercation with a girlfriend. Interest from recruiters dried up, and Knox joined the team at a local community college. He held on, however, to the hope that big-name football schools would once again take notice, and an armed-robbery conviction would have been the end to any such dream.
Four days before Henry was scheduled to testify against Knox at his preliminary hearing, a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt approached Lark in the parking lot at her Mid-City apartment. He demanded her purse and then opened fire without taking anything from her or from a niece who was standing nearby.
"The key to this case was motive," Meyers said.
In addition to the murder conviction, Knox was also found guilty of robbery and witness intimidation charges. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced Sept. 7.
In the first two trials, Meyers had relied heavily on the testimony of Knox's girlfriend Keeairra Dashiell. Dashiell had been a top student at Crenshaw and was awarded a full scholarship to UC San Diego. She was accused of driving Knox to and away from the shooting. In exchange for a lenient, seven-year prison sentence, Dashiell had agreed to testify against Knox, but she proved to be reluctant and unconvincing, often contradicting herself and getting caught in lies.
For the third trial, Meyers decided not to use Dashiell and believes the change in strategy, in large part, made the difference. Also, mobile phone records showed that Knox was within two miles of the crime scene several minutes after the shooting, Meyers said. She declined to say whether she plans to revoke the deal with Dashiell and prosecute her.
Knox's attorney, Angela Powell, said she would recommend to Knox that he appeal the verdict. The judge in the case, she said, inappropriately allowed a police detective to testify that grainy footage from a surveillance video at a fast-food restaurant taken after the shooting showed Dashiell and Knox together.