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An Oakland man who defiantly proclaimed his innocence was sentenced today to life in prison without parole for robbing and killing an Antioch man who got lost in Oakland while celebrating his 29th birthday five years ago. Eric Perry, 25, was convicted on July 25 of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted robbery plus the special circumstance of committing a murder during the course of a robbery for the shooting death of Ronald Jimmey Spears in the early morning hours of Aug. 21, 2007. According to prosecutor Laura Passaglia, Spears was with two female friends but they got lost while trying to find a friend’s house and stopped at a gas station at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 55th Street at about 1 a.m. that day to ask for directions.
They met up with Perry, who told Spears and his friends how to get to their destination and said he would get in Spears’ Dodge Charger to guide them there, Passaglia said. But after Perry drove away from the gas station, Perry pulled out a gun, demanded money from everyone in the car and eventually fatally shot Spears and stole his gold necklace, she said. “It probably was a crime of opportunity after a chance meeting,” Passaglia told jurors in her closing argument in Perry’s trial in July. Spears’ gold chain was “the trophy from the robbery,” she said. Perry was connected to Spears’ shooting death when the chain was found in his jail cell when he was in custody in an unrelated case in July 2008, according to Passaglia.
In addition, Perry’s fingerprints were found in Spears’ car, she said. However, Perry said in court today that “I feel like I was
cheated” and said he does not think he got a fair trial. Perry first blamed Spears’ death on a man he described as “the other guy” who was seen on a videotape from the gas station where the incident began. Perry later claimed that Spears died in “a drug deal gone bad.” Perry next blamed his lawyer, Daniel Taylor, for his conviction, saying, “My attorney said it (the alleged drug deal) would come out during the trial but it never did.” But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon said he thinks Perry “was well-represented” by Taylor and “I have no doubt about the jury’s correctness in this matter” in finding Perry guilty.
Spears is survived by a 10-year-old daughter. The mother of the girl, who asked that her name not be used, said, “Our lives were changed forever” by Spears’ death and said Spears “would always find the positive in any situation.” She said she and her daughter “will celebrate the short time we had with him instead of this horrible nightmare.” Spears was born in Eureka and participated in football, basketball and track at Pittsburg High School, according to his aunt, Dorothy Douglas of Antioch. Douglas served as Spears’ guardian after his mother died when he was only 9 years old. Spears also played football for the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Douglas said. She said she thinks Spears got lost when he was in Oakland because he didn’t know the city well.
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