Man sentenced for killing girlfriend as she protected their baby

SAN DIEGO --  A man who fatally shot his girlfriend in the back as she was shielding their baby in her arms and standing near her 5-year-old son in their San Carlos apartment was sentenced Thursday to 35 years to life in prison.

Rodrick Lamar Harris, 33, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in the Oct. 12, 2016, death of 29-year-old Vanessa Bobo.

Bobo's mother, Marie, said what Harris did "stabbed me right in the heart. This is not what humans do."

The victim's father said the defendant's actions, including shooting his daughter as she held her 11-month-old son, was hard to understand.

"What I would like is the death penalty (for Harris)," Brady Bobo told Judge Eugenia Eyherabide.

Beverly Pridgen Howard, the victim's youngest sister, said the loss of her nephews' mother "makes living difficult."

Harris' attorney said her client killed the person he loved and traumatized the two boys, reading aloud a letter he penned to the victim's family.

"You can't hate me more than I hate myself," Harris wrote.

A neighbor, Bryan Fields, testified at a hearing last year that he was watching television just after midnight on Oct. 12, 2016, when he started hearing noises, including a woman yell for help. He said he saw the victim on a patio, and the defendant forced her back inside their apartment.

Fields testified that he thought the confrontation was over, but then heard three gunshots and heard the defendant slam the door and leave the apartment on Lake Arrowhead Drive.

As he was getting off the phone with police, Fields said he heard a child scream and went to the couple's front door. Fields said he opened the door and saw the baby on the couch and the 5-year-old standing there.

"I heard the (5-year-old) son say his dad killed his mom," the witness testified.

Prosecutors said Harris -- a security guard and an avid shooter -- retrieved a .357 Magnum and followed the victim into her 5-year-old son's bedroom.

Bobo tried to shield their 11-month-old son from the defendant, but Harris fired, with one shot striking her in the back, severing her spinal cord and causing her to drop the baby, prosecutors said. Neither child was injured.

Harris -- who had been dating Bobo for about four years -- fled after the shooting, but was arrested in the South Bay about 12 hours later. A number of firearms were recovered from the couple's apartment, according to prosecutors.