LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Four teenagers – two of whom are being prosecuted as adults – pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder charges stemming from the deadly assault of USC graduate student from China last month.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports prosecutors say 24-year-old Xinran Ji was beaten with a baseball bat during a robbery attempt in the early morning hours of July 24 while walking back to his apartment near the campus.

Jonathan Del Carmen, 19 and Andrew Garcia, 18, were charged July 29 along with Alberto Ochoa, 17, and Alejandra Guerrero, 16, in the attack that occurred near 29th Street and Orchard Avenue. All of them are behind bars without bail.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Del Carmen and Garcia as part of the criminal complaint, but Ochoa and Guerrero, who were charged as adults, cannot face the death penalty because they are under 18.

Attorney Rose Tsai, who spoke on behalf of Ji’s parents, said that community interest in the case will not fade away.

“To see this kind of support from our community, lots of them sacrificed their time…and probably their pay to come here,” Tsai said. “It’s very touching.”

The criminal complaint includes the special-circumstance allegation that the murder occurred during an attempted robbery, alleging Garcia, Ochoa and Guerrero used deadly weapons — a bat and a wrench — during the crime, in which authorities
said Ji was beaten and struck on the head.

Prosecutors say Ji, an electrical engineering graduate student, was walking home after taking part in a study group, managed to make it back to his City Park apartment in the 1200 block of West 30th Street, where he was found dead about
7 a.m. July 24. A trail of blood marked the path he walked.

They are due back in court Sept. 12, when a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for them to stand trial.

USC officials recently announced plans to beef up security around the campus in response to the attack.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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