The parents of a Chinese USC graduate student who was beaten to death while walking to his apartment near campus arrived in the United States Thursday after breaking through State Department red tape, and broke down in tears after seeing their son's body at a funeral home.
Xinran Ji, 24, an electrical engineering graduate student, was attacked around 12:45 a.m. July 24. He was walking home after taking part in a study group, and managed to make it back to his City Park apartment, where he was found dead about six hours after the assault. A trail of blood marked the path Ji walked.
His parents, Songbo Ji and Jinhui Du, had been hoping to be in Los Angeles two days ago when their son's accused killers appeared in court, but they were unable to obtain visas to travel into the country.
They finally made it to the Los Angeles area Thursday and immediately went to the Chung Wah Funeral home in Alhambra to see their son's body. When they emerged from the funeral home, both were in tears, nearly inconsolable. They had originally been scheduled to address the press through a translator, but did not due to being overcome by grief.
Through a translator, a cousin said Ji was about a year away from graduation, "and this tragedy, terrible tragedy happened," adding that his death had a "profound impact" on the parents.
Ji was an only child, according to the family.
Daniel Deng, an attorney for the family, said Ji's death — coming two years after the killings of two other Chinese students near the USC campus — has raised concerns about the safety of students.
"If you do not do enough to ensure the safety of Chinese students, we will have no choice but warn our parents not to send (their) kids to USC," Deng said.
Jonathan Del Carmen, 19, and Andrew Garcia, 18, are charged with murder along with Alberto Ochoa, 17, and Alejandra Guerrero, 16, in the attack on Ji. Prosecutors said a baseball bat and wrench were used in the attack.
Garcia, Ochoa and Guerrero are also charged with one count each of robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon for an alleged attack on a man and woman at Dockweiler Beach later that day.
The group allegedly robbed the woman, but the man managed to escape and flag down police, according to Deputy District Attorney John McKinney.
The criminal complaint includes the special-circumstance allegation that the murder occurred during an attempted robbery. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Del Carmen and Garcia.
Ochoa and Guerrero, who were charged as adults, cannot face the death penalty because they are under 18.
All four are jailed without bail, awaiting arraignment Aug. 12.
Del Carmen is believed to be in the country illegally. Federal officials tell KPCC that Del Carmen is from Mexico, and that while they can't confirm when he entered the U.S., Del Carmen told an ICE officer that he entered illegally seven years ago.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich lashed out at State Department officials this week, calling it "unconscionable" that Del Carmen was able to enter the country with ease, but it took Ji's parents a week to obtain visas.