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Fourth gang member convicted in 2010 Christmas Day murder

The final defendant in the 2010 Christmas Day killing of a mother in front of her 3-year-old daughter was convicted of murder late Monday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Kashmier James, 25, had celebrated the holiday with family members before stopping in the 1700 block of West 85th Street in Manchester Square to visit a high school friend. She was standing outside her car, talking to the friend, about 10:20 p.m., when she was shot in the head. Her daughter was still in the car.

Derrick Williams, 20, was convicted Monday of murder and attempted murder with gang and gun allegations. Last week, a jury also found Darnell Houston, 38, and Lamar McKnight, 28, guilty of special circumstance murder and attempted murder with gang and gun allegations, prosecutors said. In May, Ezekiel Simon, 20, pleaded no contest to the same charges.

The night of the murder, the men, members of the 111 Neighborhood Crips, drove to rival gang territory “hunting” for victims, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Antonella Nistorescu. The men spotted James talking to a 26-year-old man and assumed he was from a rival gang.

The gunman, McKnight, jumped out of a blue SUV and began shooting. James was struck in the head and collapsed on top of the man. The man, who was uninjured, managed to escape.

“It’s tragic in the truest sense of the word,” Nistorescu said.

During the trial, a gang member testified that the driver of the car, Houston, told him about the shooting. A street informant also testified about McKnight’s role in the shooting.

To the gang members, James was “collateral damage,” Nistorescu said.

“It just goes to show that there’s just no limit to the violence,” Nistorescu said. “There’s no understanding that anything is sacred.”

The vehicle, which witnesses described as a dark blue SUV with chrome rims, was repossessed after the shooting without the rims, which were found at a family member’s home during a search.

Williams, Houston and McKnight, all black men, are set to be sentenced Sept. 16. Because Williams was 15 at the time of the shooting, he faces 50 years to life in prison. Houston and McKnight are each facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Simon, who is also black, is facing 29 years in state prison and is set to be sentenced Aug. 19.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Kim Evans is comforted by Christopher Jackson in December 2010 as they announce a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the Christmas Day murder of her daughter, Kashmier James, 25, in South Los Angeles. Credit: Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times

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