SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A jury Monday began deliberating the fate of a man accused of fatally beating a senior citizen and going on a shopping spree with the victim's credit cards nearly two decades ago.
Prosecutor Christina Arrollado asked jurors to find 39-year-old Edward Jamar Brooks guilty of first-degree murder.
The 71-year-old victim, LeRay Parkins, was found in an alley off the 3700 block of 28th Street on Aug. 23, 2000. He died at a hospital three days later of injuries that included two skull fractures and brain bleeding.
According to prosecutors, Parkins was out on a morning walk when he encountered Brooks and co-defendant Lester Bell.
Brooks allegedly struck Parkins in the head with a bat, then rifled through the victim's pockets and took his wallet. Purchases were made with Perkins' credit card less than two hours later at a Spring Valley gas station and an Escondido clothing store, according to the District Attorney's Office.
A baseball bat was later found at a Spring Valley home frequented by Bell and the getaway driver, Terrence Maurice Brown, but authorities lacked sufficient evidence at the time to arrest the trio for the murder, according to previous court testimony.
The three were arrested in different states last summer: Brooks in North Carolina, Bell in Colorado and Brown in Arizona. Brown, 38, recently pleaded guilty to a robbery charge, while Bell, 39, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Both men have yet to be sentenced.
Brooks "took a baseball bat to the (victim's) skull," and his DNA was found on the victim's short pockets, Arrollado alleged in her closing argument.
She said Parkins was a senior on his morning walk to stay healthy, and claims that he was "willing to get into a full-blown fight" with the defendants are false.
"Instead of coming home healthy and more vibrant, (Parkins) lay dying in alley, choking on this own blood," she told jurors.
Arrollado also dismissed claims by Brooks' attorney, Robert Ford, that Bell and Brown were the real culprits who conspired against Brooks.
"If this is a frame-up job, it's the worst frame-up job in history," the deputy district attorney said. "These three set out looking for victims."
Ford countered that if three people are involved in such a crime, accomplices "will say anything to save their own skin -- don't convict Mr. Brooks unless it's based on evidence." That evidence, Ford said, would include DNA on the baseball bat.
Brooks admits to taking Parkins' wallet, and DNA evidence supports a robbery -- but not murder, the defense attorney said. Ford said Parkins deserves justice, but the DA's office "cannot prove any malice in the heart of Mr. Brooks."
"I hope and pray that each and every one of you will agree on one theory, and that he's not guilty," Ford told jurors. "If he's an innocent man, he should be able to walk out that door."
Ford has alleged that Brown actually beat Parkins with the bat and that he and Bell -- two "lifelong friends" who grew up in North Park together -- conspired to blame Brooks, the "odd man out."
Ford earlier told jurors that as the three defendants prepared to leave, Brown got into a fistfight with Parkins, which the victim was winning, despite being much older than Brown. He also said his client went to North Park with Bell and Brown on Aug. 23 to buy marijuana, but the dealer was not home.