USC murders: Evidence against accused men revealed in court

USC students memorial

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USC students stand in silence outside the Shrine Auditorium following a memorial service April 18, 2012, for Ying Wu and Ming Qu, a pair of foreign students studying engineering who were fatally shot as they sat in a parked car near campus.

The men accused of murdering two USC graduate students from China last year appeared in court Monday to hear evidence against them.

Javier Bolden and Brian Barnes have both pleaded not guilty to murder in the deaths of Ming Qu and Ying Wu on April 11, 2012 in what police described as a robbery gone wrong. Wu and Qu were sitting outside of Wu's West Adams apartment in Qu's BMW at about 1 a.m. when they were shot to death. Police arrested Bolden and Barnes in May 2012.

During the first day of a preliminary hearing Monday, police witnesses revealed portions of an expansive investigation that launched in the aftermath of the electrical engineering students' murders.

Key to the investigation are the two's alleged ties to other shootings in L.A., which LAPD ballistics experts have linked to shell casings found at the site of Wu and Qu's murders. 

The men face one count each of attempted murder for allegedly shooting a 20-year-old man in December 2011 at a party in South L.A. 

Barnes is also facing additional charges for allegedly firing a semiautomatic weapon at a party, hitting a man and woman and severely injuring them.

LAPD Detective Vincent Carreon, the lead investigator on the case, testified that LAPD ballistics experts determined the casings from all three shootings were fired from the same gun.

LAPD Detective Robert Lait said he obtained a wiretap on Barnes and Bolden's cell phones and listened as a man — prosecutors say Barnes — made arrangements to sell the stolen iPhone of one of the murder victims.

Lait said at least a dozen officers surveilled a flower shop/used phone store on Compton Boulevard as Barnes exchanged a black iPhone for $200. Lait said detectives later used the iPhone's IMEI number to trace it to one of the murder victims. 

During the hearing, defense attorneys raised questions about police techniques following the murders — including the fact that one of the casings found at the scene was partially crushed. They've also indicated there may be issues with how Barnes and Bolden were identified as suspects.

The preliminary hearing is expected to last about three days. When it concludes, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus will decide whether there's sufficient evidence to send Bolden and Barnes to trial for murder. 

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