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Third person convicted in beating death of USC graduate student

A third person has been convicted in the beating death of a USC graduate student that shook the university community, Los Angeles County prosecutors said.

Jonathan Del Carmen, 22, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the July 24, 2014, killing of Xinran Ji, an engineering student from China who had been walking home from a study group when he was attacked in the middle of the night.

Del Carmen faces up to 15 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced Nov. 3.

Alejandra Guerrero, 19, and Andrew Garcia, 21, previously were convicted in Ji’s killing.

On Wednesday, Garcia was sentenced to life without parole for his role Ji’s death. Prosecutors said the group attacked Ji, and Garcia chased him down and beat him with a bat.

Though Ji managed to escape the assault, a trail of blood traced the quarter-mile path he walked back to his apartment, where a roommate found him dead hours later, authorities said.

The group targeted Ji because he was Chinese and they assumed he had money, prosecutors said.

Guerrero, who was 16 at the time of the attack, was convicted in October of first-degree murder, robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. She also faces life behind bars at sentencing.

A fourth defendant, Alberto Ochoa, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Prosecutors said that after the attack, Garcia and the rest of the group drove to Dockweiler State Beach, where they accosted and robbed a couple. Garcia was convicted of robbery for the beach incident, along with attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Ji’s death rattled the university — particularly its Chinese community. Parents and family members of students gathered in Beijing, seeking answers about the brutal killing, and dozens of students descended on the downtown L.A. courthouse to witness the defendants’ hearings.

About 4,600 of USC’s 10,500 international students are from China, according to figures published on the university’s website.

Ji’s death came amid a string of violent incidents at the university. In 2012, two Chinese graduate students were shot and killed in a botched robbery near campus. Six months later, a man fired gunshots in the middle of campus, outside a Halloween party. The shooting injured four people, none USC students.

In response, USC improved security and added non-armed security “ambassadors” in off-campus neighborhoods. International graduate students also were required to complete a safety education program.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

Photo: Jonathan Del Carmen, left, appears in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2015 with attorney Marvin J. Hamilton Jr. Credit: Al Seib, Los Angeles Times

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