Trial begins in case of man beaten to death with baseball bat during robbery

SAN DIEGO — A man robbed and beat a 71-year-old man to death with a baseball bat in a North Park alleyway near his home nearly two decades ago, a prosecutor said Monday, while a defense attorney alleged one of his client’s co-defendants was the actual killer.

Edward Jamar Brooks, 39, is charged with the murder of LeRay Parkins, who 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.

Deputy District Attorney Christina Arrollado told jurors in her opening statement that Parkins was out on a morning walk when he encountered Brooks and Lester Bell, 39.

Brooks allegedly struck Parkins in the head with a bat, then rifled through the victim’s pocket and took his wallet. Purchases were made with Parkins’ credit card less than two hours later at a Spring Valley gas station and an Escondido clothing store, Arrollado said.

A baseball bat was later found at a Spring Valley home frequented by Bell and the getaway driver, Terrence Maurice Brown, 38, but authorities lacked sufficient evidence at the time to arrest them for the murder, Arrollado said.

The prosecutor said advances in DNA technology allowed investigators to retest the victim’s shorts in 2018, which turned up Brooks’ DNA in one of the pockets.

Following his arrest, Brooks made phone calls from jail indicating he knew people were “snitching” on him and that he knew he “ain’t getting out” of jail, Arrollado said.

Brown has since pleaded guilty to a robbery charge, while Bell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Both men have yet to be sentenced.

The trio were arrested in different states last summer — Brooks in North Carolina, Bell in Colorado and Brown in Arizona.

Defense attorney Robert Ford 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 said his client went to North Park with Bell and Brown on Aug. 23 to buy marijuana, but the dealer was not home.

The defense attorney alleged that as the trio prepared to leave, Brown got into a fistfight with Parkins, which the victim was winning, despite being much older than Brown.

The attorney alleged that Brooks, in an effort to break up the fight, grabbed Parkins by the arms and shoved him to the ground. At that point, Bell commanded Brooks to “get his money,” Ford alleged. He said Parkins told Brooks where he could find his wallet — inside his right front pocket — and Brooks reached into the pocket and grabbed it, accounting for the DNA evidence.

When the trio got back to their car, Brown felt slighted for losing a fight to a 71-year-old man, so he went back with a bat he kept in the car’s trunk and bludgeoned Parkins, the defense attorney alleged.

The defense attorney said Brooks’ co-defendants’ gave police inconsistent stories regarding the robbery. Ford also said jurors should question the testimony of the clerk at the Escondido store, who used to date Bell and was an acquaintance of Brown. She allegedly told police that Bell and Brown entered the store with Brooks, who she didn’t know. She said Brooks made purchases with Parkins’ credit card and signed a credit card slip, but later changed her story. Ford said she was also unable to pick Brooks out of a photo lineup.

Ford told jurors that Brown and Bell went on to commit more violent robberies, while Brooks did not.

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