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EX-CON GETS LIFE IN A.V. KILLING LITTLEROCK MAN, 76, WAS LEFT TO DIE AFTER ROBBERY AT HIS HOME IN 2003.

Byline: KAREN MAESHIRO

Staff Writer

An ex-convict was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the October 2003 slaying of a 76-year-old Littlerock man, who was bound and beaten in his home.

Ronnie Johnson, 31, was charged along with another man -- whose trial is expected to begin later this year -- of robbing Charles Trice and leaving him to die of asphyxiation and a neck injury.

"There were several family members there. They all made statements and talked about what a good generous person he was and what a tragic loss it was for the community," Deputy District Attorney Robert Sherwood said. "It was very emotional."

Johnson was convicted in November by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury of first-degree murder with special circumstances, robbery and burglary. The jury acquitted him of auto theft.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

Testimony during the trial indicated that the defendant knew the victim and that the defendant lived in the area.

The defendants may have gone through the victim's house looking for drugs, but there was no evidence that Trice was selling drugs or had any in his residence, prosecutors said.

DNA evidence found on duct tape that was used to bind the victim came back with a match to Johnson, prosecutors said.

The defense had argued that the DNA evidence was not reliable and that prosecution witnesses were not credible, prosecutors said.

The trial for co-defendant Ernest Scott, 27, also an ex-convict from Lancaster, is expected to begin in March.

Along with Trice's murder, Scott will be tried in the beating death three months earlier of Littlerock antiques shop owner Virginia Gnerlich.

The slayings were Littlerock's first in three years.

Johnson was arrested in April 2004 on an unrelated drug offense and later charged with Trice's murder, records show. Scott was arrested two days later, and the following month was charged with Gnerlich's slaying.

Gnerlich, the owner of Victoria's Antique Garden, was beaten to death during a struggle inside her store in July 2003. Gnerlich, who had multiple sclerosis, lived in the Pearblossom Highway shop. The cash register was stolen, along with a small amount of money.

Trice's body was found in October 2003 in his home on East Avenue R-10 by his daughter, who came to pick him up for an appointment. Trice's killers took items from his home and stole his vehicle.

Scott had been released from prison two months before Gnerlich's slaying, and Johnson had been out of prison 2 1/2 years before Trice's death.

Scott had served time in the California Youth Authority as a juvenile, and in 2000 was sent to state prison for an attempted robbery in Long Beach, state records show. He was released on parole in May 2003. Johnson was convicted in 1995 of attempted robbery in an Antelope Valley case. In 1999, he was convicted of forging a driver's license or identification and was released on parole in March 2001.

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 21, 2007
Words:501
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