Crime & Justice

Second defendant gets life in prison for murders of 2 USC students

A reward poster seeking information about the murders of two Chinese engineering students in April of 2012.
A reward poster seeking information about the murders of two Chinese engineering students in April of 2012.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

A Los Angeles man convicted of killing two Chinese engineering students from the University of Southern California will spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Javier Bolden, 22, was sentenced Monday to two consecutive life sentences for his role in the murders of Ming Qu and Ying Wu on April 11, 2012. He was also given a life sentence for a separate shooting that left a man with brain damage. On top of that, Bolden will serve 22 years in prison for use of a gun during the crimes.

Bolden was convicted last month of felony murder for the USC killings. He and another man, Bryan Barnes, snuck up on the two students in 2012 while they sat in a parked car in the West Adams neighborhood, not far from campus.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Bolden and Barnes were trying to steal the car and the students’ cell phones when Barnes opened fire into the car, hitting both Qu and Wu.

Qu crawled to a house for help but died on the front porch.

Barnes, 22, pleaded guilty in February to two counts of murder and other charges for the USC murders. He was sentenced to two life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. The prosecution agreed to not seek the death penalty in exchange for Barnes' guilty plea.

Bolden fired his weapon too but his bullets didn’t pierce the car windows. Prosecutors showed videotape during the trial of Bolden bragging to a jail informant about the killings. Police later used the shell casings at the scene to pin Bolden to a separate shooting at a house party. He was convicted of attempted murder for that shooting.

Bolden’s lawyer said on Monday he has filed an appeal.

The parents of the slain students attended Monday’s sentencing hearing. Wu’s family did not speak but the father of Ming Qu gave an emotional statement to the court.

“This judgment is ... unfair to our children and of little comfort to their souls in heaven,'' Wanzhi Qu said.

The murders frightened the USC community and made headlines in China. The university responded by adding extra security on and around campus.

City News Service contributed to this report.