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Jury convicts man of killing popular El Camino Real High student

Jason Schumann faces 50 years to life for the shooting death of Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in the San Fernando Valley.

September 19, 2013|By Jill Cowan
  • Photos of Jason Schumann, right, and his girlfriend Elizabeth Ibarra are displayed by the LAPD in 2012. Schumann was convicted Thursday of murdering Francisco Rodriguez Jr., whom he apparently believed was having a relationship with Ibarra.
Photos of Jason Schumann, right, and his girlfriend Elizabeth Ibarra are… (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)

They were two halves of a dysfunctional whole, a prosecutor said.

Jason Alejandro Schumann and the mother of one of his children, Elizabeth Ibarra, both used meth and had spent time in jail for forgery.

It was during Schumann's jail stint that Ibarra met a popular 17-year-old named Francisco Rodriguez Jr.

And it was a just a week after Ibarra was released from jail that Rodriguez, just home from a soccer game, was gunned down in his San Fernando Valley frontyard.

Ultimately, though, a jury decided that only Schumann, enraged by what he believed was a relationship between Ibarra and Rodriguez, was responsible for the teen's death.

Schumann was convicted of murder on Thursday after a two-week trial. The Calabasas man, now 26, faces 50 years to life in prison for the slaying, plus gun-related special allegations. He is set be sentenced on Oct. 1.

The killing of Rodriguez, a senior at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, stunned a community that knew the young athlete as a happy kid with a bright future. His father, also named Francisco Rodriguez, said through an interpreter that he remembered his son walking down the street and greeting everybody.

The father would ask his son, "You really know them?" And Francisco would say yes.

Family members awaiting the verdict in the Van Nuys courtroom wore purple T-shirts in memory of "Panchito." When the verdict was announced, Rodriguez's sister, Jessica, 25, clapped. Their mother, Esther Rodriguez, began to cry.

Schumann, cleanshaven and his dark hair slicked back, showed little reaction. As a bailiff led him out of the courtroom, he looked over his shoulder at his parents, who looked straight ahead.

Outside the courtroom, Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Silverman said the jury "served up justice today."

"This was something a long time coming for this family," she said. Schumann, she added, had been "a menace to the community for years and he deserves exactly what he got."

Silverman said that Ibarra, then 19, knocked on the front door of Rodriguez's home the evening of Jan. 11, 2012, and lured him out to the frontyard. Schumann was waiting in front of the house. After a brief argument, Schumann shot Rodriguez.

Seconds later, Jessica Rodriguez ran outside and found her brother face-down on the lawn, Silverman said. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Ibarra, investigators said at the time, met Rodriguez at a party. The two exchanged text messages and other communications, which Schumann later discovered on Ibarra's phone, authorities said.

Schumann's attorney, Anthony Brooklier, suggested in his closing argument that Ibarra had been the shooter.

He said Thursday that he plans to file a motion for a new trial, and if that's denied, will pursue an appeal.

Brooklier described Ibarra as a manipulative liar, a "meth freak" who would say anything to protect her own interests. Schumann, he said, had essentially been conned into taking the fall for her because he loved her and their child.

But Silverman, in her rebuttal Wednesday, cautioned jurors not to let their feelings about Ibarra color their decision.

Ibarra was the only eyewitness to the crime, Silverman said.

She said that Schumann shared the negative attributes Brooklier had assigned to Ibarra in his arguments. She added that claims about Schumann's love for Ibarra were "hogwash." He had beaten her and had anger management issues, Silverman said.

Silverman said physical evidence from the scene pointed to Schumann as the shooter. And Schumann, she added, was the only one who had a reasonable motive.

Schumann had confronted "a bunch of people" about the purported relationship and had said he intended to confront Rodriguez, Silverman said.

That he could have then stayed in a green Ford Explorer while Ibarra shot Rodriguez was perhaps possible, but was not a "reasonable conclusion," she said.

After the verdict was read, Jessica Rodriguez, her eyes still welling with tears, said she felt numb.

"I know it's not going to bring my brother back," she said. "But it brings some closure to this whole nightmare."

jill.cowan@latimes.com

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