Man given 19-year prison term for killing transient in Hillcrest

Jason Huggins died after being attacked by a rock

SAN DIEGO - A man who fatally bludgeoned a transient with a rock near his encampment in Hillcrest because the victim had previously testified against him in a grand theft case was sentenced Wednesday to 19 years to life in state prison.

Joshua James Larson, 38, was convicted Sept. 21 of second-degree murder in the death of Jason Huggins.

Witnesses who lived in the homeless camp near the 1300 block of Washington Street identified Larson as being in the camp looking for Huggins the day of the attack.

"I think this was a crime of revenge," said Makenzie Harvey, the deputy district attorney on the case. "I think the reason that he murdered victim was because the victim had reported a crime where the defendant was involved, testified in court [and] the victim cooperated with law enforcement."

Huggins walked out of a gorge near his camp on June 22, 2011, and flagged down a passing motorist. He was only able to tell the driver he had been beaten on the head with a rock.

Medics took the 31-year-old victim to a trauma center, where his condition worsened and he died two weeks later. A deputy medical examiner said Huggins had a fractured skull and brain injuries caused by blunt force trauma to the left side of his head.

Larson was also convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for hitting Huggins' friend, Nathan Meza, in the face with a rock.

Meza testified that he and Huggins had seen Larson on the street and at a McDonald's restaurant the day of the attack.

When Meza and Huggins arrived back at their tent, Larson appeared and threw a rock at Meza and later fought with Huggins, Meza testified.

Harvey said Larson had a motive to attack Huggins, who had testified against the defendant in a 2009 case in which Larson was convicted of taking the victim's wallet.

A cousin said Huggins, also known as "Cowboy" because of the hate he was often seen wearing, became homeless after moving from Tennessee to San Diego.

Larson -- who was also convicted of threatening a witness -- was on probation for the grand theft conviction and a drug sales charge at the time of the murder, the prosecutor said.

Larson's attorney argued for a lighter sentence, saying his client came from a good family. Larson's parents were in court to listen to the sentencing.

"He was in the Army and honorably discharged. However, his life appears to have been eroded by drug use, but he has no prior violent history and has never been in prison before," said defense attorney Peter Will.

Judge Theodore Weathers sentenced Larson and acknowledged that the defendant has shown no signs of remorse for the murder.

Larson was also sentenced Wednesday for the attack on Meza during the same incident.

Larson's family did not want to speak on camera, but told 10News that they support him.

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