Ex-Crenshaw football star gets life for killing witness' mother
A high school football star whose talents on the playing field once seemed certain to carry him out of South Los Angeles, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering the mother of a girl who was set to testify against him in a robbery case.
The punishing of Tyquan Knox, 23, came nearly five years after the January 2007 shooting, in which Knox was walked up to Pamela Lark outside of her home and shot her multiple times at close range as her grandchildren looked on.
Over the years, prosecutors tried three times to convict Knox, once a star wide receiver at Crenshaw High School who had attracted the attention of college recruiters from top-tier schools.
The first two trials ended in hung juries, before a jury in July finally convicted him.
Knox allegedly killed Lark in an attempt to silence her daughter, Khristina Henry, who was planning to identify Knox in court as the man who had robbed her at gunpoint.
During sentencing, Lark’s children, grandchildren, siblings and other relatives spoke tearfully of how much they missed a woman they described as both generous and gregarious.
The proceedings turned tense when Knox, handcuffed with his legs shackled, defiantly spewed profanities at Lark’s sister as she began to speak and then turned his vitriol toward L.A. County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor. Officers from the Sheriff’s Department stepped into the courtroom aisle to separate Lark’s family from Knox’s supporters.
Pastor warned Knox that he’d be removed from the room if the outbursts continued.
“Our family is not the same. It took us years before we were able to get together as a family because it was so obvious that someone was missing,” Karen Slider, Lark’s sister, told Pastor, her voice breaking. “I want him to know this all could have gone away with a simple apology after Khristina was robbed. If you had told Pam you were sorry, that you fell in with the wrong crowd and that it would never happen again, she would have forgiven you on the spot.”
Several months before the killing, 17-year-old Henry had been robbed at gunpoint along with her boyfriend outside a bowling alley.
Lark insisted that Henry report it to police, telling her daughter that it was her duty. The girl met with LAPD detectives and identified Knox as the assailant from a photo lineup. Over the next few months, Knox's mother and other acquaintances contacted Lark and Henry, in what they took to be an attempt to dissuade the teenager from testifying against Knox.
“You better watch your back,” Henry said she remembered being told by a mutual acquaintance. “It's best that you guys not go to court.”
Knox had already missed his best opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship to college. During his senior year at Crenshaw High, he had been kicked off the football team after a physical altercation with a girlfriend. Interest from recruiters dried up, and Knox joined the team at a local community college.
He held on, however, to the hope that big-name football schools would once again take notice. An armed-robbery conviction would have probably been the end to any such dream.
Four days before Henry was scheduled to testify against Knox at his preliminary hearing, a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt approached Lark in the parking lot at her Mid-City apartment. He demanded her purse and then opened fire without taking anything from her.
In comments to the judge, Mark Holguin, the homicide detective who investigated the case, recalled the chill he felt during Lark’s autopsy when he saw she had been shot through the hand and realized she had lifted up her hand in “a futile attempt to stop the bullets.”
“I will retire soon…and hopefully one day will forget the senseless evil of this murder,” he said, his voice wavering with emotion.
Knox’s attorney, Angela Powell, told Pastor she planned to appeal the conviction.
The killing and the ripple effect it had on the people involved was the subject of a two-part series in The Times.
Photo: Khristina Henry holds a photo of her mother, Pamela Lark. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times