SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Two men were sentenced to prison Friday for their roles in the baseball bat beating death of a man in a North Park alley two decades ago, while the man who allegedly wielded the bat is free after two mistrials and a judge’s dismissal of a murder charge last month.
Lester Bell, 39, and Terrence Brown, 38, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery, respectively, for the Aug. 23, 2000, beating of 71-year-old LeRay Parkins, who was found in an alley off the 3700 block of 28th Street. He died at a hospital three days later of injuries that included two skull fractures and brain bleeding.
Bell received a three-year sentence Friday, while Brown was sentenced to two years in state prison. Due to their time already served behind bars in county jail, Brown has received enough credit to be released soon, while Bell may spend about one year in prison.
Prosecutors allege their former co-defendant Edward Jamar Brooks, 39, beat Parkins with a bat and took his wallet.
Two recent trials for Brooks resulted in hung juries, and San Diego County Superior Court Judge David M. Gill exercised his discretion to dismiss the case against Brooks in late January. In making his decision, Gill said he did not believe a third jury panel would be able to come to an agreement either.
Brooks’ defense attorney, Robert Ford, alleged that Brown was the actual killer, and that Brooks was merely a bystander. The attorney claimed Brooks’ co-defendants were two “lifelong friends” who grew up in North Park together and conspired to blame him for the murder.
According to the prosecution, Parkins was out for a morning walk when he was attacked by the defendants, who were looking for a target to rob.
After allegedly striking the victim in the head, Brooks snatched Parkins’ wallet out of his right front pocket, which was corroborated by DNA evidence, according to Deputy District Attorney Christina Arrollado.
Prosecutors alleged that after the attack, the three defendants went on a shopping spree with the victim’s credit cards just hours later at a Spring Valley gas station and an Escondido clothing store.
Ford argued Brown got into a fistfight with Parkins, which the victim was winning, despite his advanced age.
The attorney alleged that Brooks, in an effort to break up the fight, grabbed Parkins by the arms and shoved him to the ground, then was commanded by one of the other men to grab his wallet, which accounted for his DNA on the victim’s clothing.
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 trunk and bludgeoned Parkins, the defense attorney alleged.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Runston G. Maino, who sentenced Bell and Brown and oversaw Brooks’ first trial, said he found both defendants’ accounts of the killing credible and said “The man wielding the bat is not going to face punishment for it.”
While the case went cold in 2000, advances in DNA technology allowed investigators to retest the victim’s shorts in 2018, which turned up Brooks’ DNA in one of the pockets.
The trio were arrested in three different states — Brooks in North Carolina, Bell in Colorado and Brown in Arizona.