HOUSTON (AP) — A jury on Friday convicted a man of capital murder for the 2018 death of a 7-year-old Black girl in a drive-by shooting that her family initially believed was racially motivated.
Following the jury’s guilty verdict, Larry Woodruffe, 27, was given an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.
Woodruffe was one of two men charged with killing Jazmine Barnes on Dec. 30, 2018, as she and her family drove to a grocery store in Houston. The other man, Eric Black Jr., 23, pleaded guilty last month as part of an agreement with prosecutors that reduced his charge to murder. He is awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors say Woodruffe and Black mistakenly thought they were firing at rival drug dealers when they shot at the girl and her family.
“The death of little Jazmine Barnes devastated our entire community, and everyone connected to this case worked very long and very hard to ensure her killers were brought to justice,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
Jazmine’s family had described the shooter as a white man driving a red pickup truck, prompting concerns that her death was a hate crime. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office circulated a composite sketch based on the family’s description, but a later tip implicated Woodruffe and Black, who are both African American.
Authorities said they believed the family’s initial description of the shooter was sincere and the man in the red truck was likely a bystander who left the scene.
The girl’s killing prompted an outpouring of support for her family from celebrities and ordinary people across the country.