Judge dismisses murder charge against man accused in beating death

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SAN DIEGO — Following a second trial ending with a hung jury, a judge dismissed a murder charge Monday against a man who was accused of beating a 71-year-old man to death with a baseball bat in a North Park alley two decades ago.

Edward Jamar Brooks, 39, was charged with the Aug. 23, 2000, beating of 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.

Co-defendants Lester Bell, 39, and Terrence Brown, 38, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery, respectively, and await sentencing.

Brooks’ attorney, Robert Ford, argued that Brown was Parkins’ actual killer and that the co-defendants — two “lifelong friends” who grew up in North Park together — conspired to blame Brooks, the “odd man out.”

In Brooks’ first trial last year, jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of guilt.

The second jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge David M. Gill exercised his discretion to dismiss the case against Brooks, meaning he could be released from custody as early as Monday. In making his decision, Gill said he did not believe a third jury panel would be able to come to an agreement either.

Prosecutors alleged the three co-defendants encountered Parkins in the alleyway, where Brooks struck him in the head with the bat and stole his wallet. The men then allegedly 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.

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.

Ford alleged that 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 said 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, then was commanded by one of the other men to grab Parkins’ 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 car’s trunk and bludgeoned Parkins, the defense attorney alleged.

“(Brooks) had no intent to kill. He didn’t even have intent to rob until they told him to take his wallet,” Ford told the jury during the first trial. “Mr. Brown is skating away with a robbery charge in this case.”

Months after the killing, a baseball bat alleged to be the murder weapon was found at a Spring Valley home frequented by the defendants, but authorities lacked sufficient evidence at the time to arrest them for the murder.

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.

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

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