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Compton man sentenced to death for killing girlfriend's daughter nearly 20 years ago

July 23, 2010 | 12:17 pm

A Compton man convicted of sexually assaulting, stomping and murdering his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter nearly two decades ago was sentenced Friday to death.

James Heard, 58, killed sixth-grade honors student Katrina Brown in December 1990 while her mother was at work. Heard later said he could not remember the slaying because he had been drinking alcohol and smoking crack for more than a day.

But investigators tied him to the crime after recovering a part of his tongue that Katrina had bit off.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders accepted a jury's recommendation that Heard receive the death penalty. It is his second death penalty sentence; the California Supreme Court overturned the first in 2003 because of a “seriously deficient examination of a prospective juror during the jury selection process."

During Heard's trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers told jurors that Katrina had marked her killer by biting off part of his tongue, and that he stomped on her and poured rubbing alcohol down her throat to get her to regurgitate before he strangled her to death.

Meyers, an experienced death penalty trial lawyer, has called the case “most brutal crime I have seen perpetrated in my lifetime."

"This is one guy I hope to see executed in my lifetime," she said. "I'm hoping they expedite this."

Heard was seen shortly after the killing walking along Market Street in North Long Beach, bleeding from his mouth. He was picked up by paramedics and taken to a Lakewood hospital, where he declined treatment and left against a doctor’s recommendation.

He was arrested across the street from the hospital.

-- Richard Winton