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JURY SAYS MEN KILLED MOM IN FRONT OF SON.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Staff Writer

Nearly six years after he saw his mother shot to death on the way to Bible class, 15-year-old Joshua Myles sat in a Van Nuys courtroom Tuesday as a jury pronounced two men guilty of her murder.

``It's over. The only thing I could do is smile - it's over,'' Myles said. ``The first time I testified, it was kind of scary to see those guys, but all I could do now is laugh.

``I have my mom's heart in me. She was a really great person.''

Myles, then 9, rode with his mother, Laurie Myles of North Hills, when she went to pick up one of her daughters from a Bible-study class in Northridge on Sept. 15, 1993, and was accosted by Etienne Moore and LaCedrick Johnson.

After she handed over her purse and briefcase at gunpoint, Moore shot her to death and then drove off with Johnson. Joshua ran into the school, yelling that his mother had been shot and needed help.

Moore, 25, a former Faith Baptist High School basketball star, was convicted of the special circumstances of murder during a robbery and multiple murder. Laurie Myles was the first of two women killed in a crime spree. The jury now must decide whether to recommend the death penalty.

Johnson, 23, of Canoga Park was convicted of murder, conspiracy and robbery and the special circumstance of murder during a robbery. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, so he will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After the verdicts were read in Los Angeles Superior Court, Joshua Myles said the conviction is bittersweet justice because only Moore faces the possibility of a death sentence.

``All I can say is: I'll be there when it happens,'' he added.

Last week, at his middle school graduation, detectives on his mother's case marked the achievement by giving him a pocket watch on which was inscribed, ``Mom's so proud today & always.''

Deadly crime spree

Moore and Johnson were accused of committing a four-month series of robberies and shootings across the San Fernando Valley in 1993. Prosecutors said a third defendant, Shashonee Monette Solomon, had them kill his ex-girlfriend, Talin Kara Tarkhanian, 20.

Solomon, 35, and Moore were convicted of murdering Tarkhanian, but the jury deadlocked on whether there were special circumstances, so Solomon escaped the death penalty. He faces at least 25 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Solomon ordered Tarkhanian's death after she broke off their romance and threatened to tell his parole officer about his crimes.

She was shot six weeks after Myles was murdered. Her body was found slumped over the wheel of her car near De Soto Avenue and the Simi Valley Freeway.

`I can finally sleep'

After the verdicts, 18 members of Laurie Myles' family gathered in a prayer circle outside the downtown courtroom.

``Our family's prayers were answered,'' said Dawn Piatt of Lake View Terrace, a niece of Laurie Myles who named her daughter after the victim. ``We've waited six years for the guilty verdict. I can finally sleep at night, and my aunt can finally rest peacefully in her grave.''

Their mood was far from forgiving as they repeatedly demanded the death penalty for Moore and said they are eager to testify at his penalty trial.

``She would have helped these individuals if they had asked her,'' said Myles' youngest brother, Larry Hicks, who cried in relief as the clerk read the guilty verdicts.

``I feel a cancer has been cut from the fabric of society, and they have one more curtain call,'' said Myles' oldest brother, David Hicks of Frasier Park.

No remorse shown

Myles' daughter Dana Martin, now 22, was waiting for her mother to pick her up from class when the shooting occurred. She said the murderers have shown no remorse and even taunted the family with smug smiles and other gestures in the courtroom.

``I can't understand how you can have absolutely no remorse when (a jury) says you're guilty and you know what you did,'' she said.

Her sister, Michelle Martin, 26, said she misses her mother terribly.

``I still get flashes of `I've got to tell my mom,' '' she said. ``We talked all the time, so not to have that person - to say everything to - is hard. I still want to call her today and tell her what happened.''

In the murder of Tarkhanian, Moore was convicted of robbing her of credit cards and other items. The jury deadlocked on whether Johnson played any role.

The jury deliberated eight days after a three-month trial.

Judge J.D. Smith issued a gag order barring the prosecutors, attorneys and jurors from commenting on the case.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 30, 1999
Words:783
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