USC student Xinran Ji, beaten to death near campus two years ago after a robbery, was targeted because his assailants assumed he was rich, witnesses said in court today.
The information came to light as prosecutors continued to lay out their case against Alejandra Guerrero, the first of four suspects to be tried.
The prosecutors said that the suspects, in later interviews with police, confirmed they targeted Ji because he was Chinese and assumed he was rich.
Ji's father, who said he and his wife saved every last penny and dime to send Ji to USC, said in an interview with KTLA last week that the family "wants to see justice can be served."
Just hours after the attack on Ji, Guerrero and the other suspects allegedly continued onto Dockweiler State Beach in another robbery attempt. At the beach, prosecutors say they assaulted and robbed Claudia Rocha and her friend Jesus.
Rocha said she "raised [her] hand and started to pray" as she watched the incident. She told the court that two girls, one dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, began to mock her.
According to Rocha, one of the two girls then charged at her with a pocket knife and demanded she turn over her purse. Rocha said she ran away and flagged down a vehicle. The driver helped her contact the police.
Working with detectives, Rocha said, she was able to identify the four suspects and the getaway vehicle.
Prosecutors and police said they believe that Guerrero and the other suspects, Jonathan Del Carmen, Andrew Garcia and Alberto Ochoa, drove to USC because they were looking for students who might be carrying cash. The same quest took them to Santa Monica later that night.
All four suspects have pleaded not guilty. The other three defendants will go on trial in November.