Trial begins for suspect in slain USC student case

Opening statements in the trial for the murder of a USC graduate student were held on Friday at the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The jury began hearing arguments in the case of Alejandra Guerrero, 18, who was one of four teenagers charged with killing Xinran Ji.

Ji, a graduate engineering student from China, was beaten to death after returning from a study session on July 24, 2014, near the University Park Campus. The four suspects, Jonathan Del Carmen, Andrew Garcia, Alberto Ochoa and Alejandra Guerrero, pleaded not guilty to the charges later that year.

Though Guerrero was 16 at the time of the crime, she is being charged as an adult. According to NBC Los Angeles, the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney John McKinney, stated that Guerrero was among the four teenagers who decided to rob someone near USC’s campus that day.

“They visited an act of violence on him that is so brutal that it is almost incomprehensible,” McKinney said. “They confronted him, they demanded money and then they assaulted him. The beating that he took was absolutely horrific.”

Guerrero’s attorney, Errol Cook, claimed that she wasn’t the leader and didn’t inflict the “death blow.” Cook claimed that the evidence shows Ochoa was the first to hit Ji, while Garcia was the first to chase him.

“My client never punched Xinran, never caused a death blow to Xinran,” Guerrero’s attorney said.

McKinney stated that the victim had multiple skull fractures among other injuries. Ji left a trail of blood and made it to his apartment, where he was found dead by his roommate.

After beating the late student, the four defendants attempted to rob a couple at Dockweiler State Beach. They were caught and taken into police custody, which is when police discovered blood on Guerrero’s jeans that connected them to Ji’s murder.

Guerrero, along with the other defendants, may face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other three defendants are awaiting trial.