One of the two men accused in the shooting deaths of two USC grad students from China pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder on Wednesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s announced.
Bryan Barnes was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in the deaths of Ming Qu and Ying Wu, according to a news release from the DA’s office. Barnes also admitted to special circumstances that included murder during the commission of a robbery.
The 21-year-old was spared the death penalty in exchange for the guilty plea, the Los Angeles Times reported. Prosecutors also asked the court to drop an attempted murder charge that was unrelated to the case, officials said.
The two engineering students, both 23, were shot to death while sitting in Qu’s parked BMW in the early morning hours of April 11 in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue (map), not far from the University of Southern California.
The crime was the result of a botched robbery attempt, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
The case drew international attention, in part because USC draws many students from abroad.
Barnes and the other defendant, 21-year-old Javier Bolden, were arrested in May 2012 after LAPD detectives connected the pair to Wu’s stolen iPhone, the Times reported.
The fathers of both victims, Wanzhi Qu and Xiyong Wu, flew in from China and attended Barnes’ sentencing. Addressing the court, they talked about the devastation and loss their families have suffered since their children were killed “for no reason,” according to the release.
Bolden was scheduled to return for a pretrial conference on March 21.
Prosecutors said they have not yet determined whether to seek the death penalty against Bolden, who was still being held without bail.