Memorial today for USC grad student slain near campus

USC will host a public memorial today for a 24-year-old graduate student from China who was slain last week near the campus.

The service at USC’s Newman Hall comes a day after Xinran Ji's grief-stricken parents visited a funeral home in Alhambra after arriving from China.

Prosecutors say Ji was beaten with a bat and suffered a head injury while walking home from a study group about 12:45 a.m. July 24. Despite his injury, Ji managed to make it home to his apartment, where, police said, a roommate found his body later in the morning.

Four teenagers -- ages 16 to 19 -- have since been charged with murder in connection with his death.

Outside the funeral home on Thursday, Ji’s relatives clasped each other tightly as they addressed more than three dozen reporters.

Jinhui Du, dressed in black and shaded by large sunglasses, kept crying as a cousin spoke about Ji.

"My son, my son, my son," Du cried in Chinese. "How can I live when you are gone?"

Ji's father, Songbo Ji, kept his eyes clenched shut, shaking his head in grief as he held onto his wife.

A cousin, Lisheng Liu, said Ji was very ambitious, and had plans to pursue his Ph.D. in the U.S. after earning his master's degree.

"Since he was in elementary school, Xinran was passionate, he was dedicated, he was outstanding," Liu said in Chinese.

After graduating from the prestigious Zhejiang University, Ji had a job opportunity in China, Liu said.

"But he wanted to do better," he said. "He chose to come here to study."

Jonathan DelCarmen, 19, and three others -- identified as Andrew Garcia, 18; Alberto Ochoa, 17; and Alejandra Guerrero, 16 -- were charged Tuesday in connection with Ji's death. The murder charge carries a special circumstance allegation that Ji was killed during an attempted robbery, allowing prosecutors the option of seeking the death penalty against DelCarmen and Garcia.

Because of their ages, Ochoa and Guerrero will not face the death penalty, but prosecutors said they could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted. California law allows prosecutors the discretion in certain crimes -- including murder -- to charge a minor as an adult. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has ruled that minors are not eligible for capital punishment.

The Times generally does not name juvenile suspects unless they are charged as adults, as they have been in this case.

Ji’s memorial is scheduled for 3 p.m. at USC’s Newman Hall. The doors open at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony will be conducted in both English and Mandarin.

A scholarship in remembrance of Ji’s life has also been set up. Contact Jane Ong at (213) 821-2921 or jane.ong@usc.edu to make a donation.

Follow @RosannaXia and @katemather for more updates on this story.