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Jury deadlocked in trial of security guard accused of killing college student

February 17, 2009 |  2:16 pm

A Los Angeles jury deadlocked today in the murder trial of a former security guard accused of shooting an 18-year-old college student found in her car at a Palmdale park-and-ride lot nine years ago.

Raymond Lee Jennings, 34, sat in a light-colored suit and showed little emotion as jurors announced they were split 11-1 in favor of his guilt. Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson declared a mistrial, marking the second time a jury has failed to reach a decision in Jennings’ case.

Last year, a different panel deadlocked 9-3 in favor of a conviction. During the latest trial, defense attorneys argued that there was no evidence connecting Jennings to the Feb. 22, 2000, killing of Michelle O’Keefe.

The body of the Antelope Valley College student was found slumped in the front seat of her electric-blue Mustang in a wind-swept parking lot where Jennings was working for a private security firm. Jennings told Sheriff’s Department detectives he heard gunshots that night but didn’t see a gunman. Investigators never found the 9-millimeter handgun used in the slaying or any physical evidence that would identify O’Keefe’s assailant.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Blake argued that Jennings gave detectives inconsistent statements about what he saw and revealed key details about the case during interviews that only the killer would know. He said Jennings probably approached the victim while she was changing clothes in her car and killed her after she spurned his advances.

After Tuesday’s court hearing, Blake said his office would decide in the next few weeks whether it would seek to try Jennings a third time. Defense attorney David Houchin told the judge he would urge the court to dismiss the case on March 16.

-- Jack Leonard