Three 19-year-old men convicted of the murder of a former La Jolla High student, who was lured to a late-night robbery in Paradise Hills by a Craigslist ad for a laptop computer, were sentenced on Friday, May 31, to lengthy prison terms.
Rashon Abernathy — who fired the shot that killed 18-year-old Garrett Berki — was sentenced to 50 years to life behind bars. Abernathy had faced a maximum of 83 years to life — a sentence Judge Kerry Wells said would constitute cruel and unusual punishment since the defendant was 17 the time of the murder.
Co-defendants Seandell Jones and Shaquille Jordan — who were also convicted of first-degree murder — were each sentenced to 25 years to life. Jones, a front-seat passenger in the getaway car, and Jordan, the driver, were 17-year-old friends of Abernathy at the time of the crimes.
"The motive in this case was pure greed," the judge said before sentencing Abernathy.
Wells denied a motion for a new trial for all three defendants, saying her failure to give a certain jury instruction was harmless error.
The defendants were convicted in the May 11, 2011, robbery-slaying of Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High School. Berki's girlfriend, Ali Faudoa, went with him to check out the computer for sale and was also a victim of robbery.
The jury also found Abernathy guilty of robbery for stealing $600 from a Navy man who responded to a Craigslist ad to buy a similar computer on May 5, 2011.
Prosecutor Kristian Trocha said Berki went to Paradise Hills about 10 p.m. with Faudoa to buy a MacBook Pro computer advertised on Craigslist for $600. The defendants — who Trocha said were gang members — grabbed the money and the victims' cellphones and got into a stolen car.
Connie Berki said her son was loved by everyone.
"Six hundred dollars ... that's what my son's life was worth," she said.
Berki and Faudoa were headed to report the theft when he spotted the defendants' car and gave chase on state Route 54, Trocha said. The cars exited the freeway several miles away and ended up front-to-front in a cul-de-sac.
Abernathy fired one shot through the windshield of the victims' car, striking Berki in the shoulder, the prosecutor said. Berki died about 45 minutes later.
Jordan drove off but crashed the car in a nearby cul-de-sac and the defendants ran off, only to be arrested a short time later, Trocha said.
In court, Faudoa said that for a long time, she blamed herself for what happened that night, but has since decided to let go of the guilt.
The judge applauded Faudoa's decision.
"This was not your fault," Wells said.
Abernathy's attorney, Kathleen Coyne, told the jury that her client admitted the robberies and brandishing a gun but was not guilty of murder. She said Abernathy didn't know the gun that killed Berki was loaded, and it discharged accidentally when Jordan suddenly hit the brakes.