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Three arrested in South L.A. Christmas murder of Kashmier James

8/31/2011, 2:30 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A large number of tips from the public led to the arrests of three people accused of gunning down a woman in South Los Angeles on Christmas night in front of her 3-year-old daughter, detectives said today.

Darnell Deshon Houston, 34, Lamar McKnight, 24, and Ezekiel Simon, 16, were all charged Tuesday with murder and attempted murder in connection with the Dec. 25 shooting that killed 25-year-old Kashmier Shari James, according to the District Attorney's Office. Simon is a juvenile, but was charged as an adult.

All three defendants were being held without bail.

At a news conference today, detectives said all three were gang members, but James wasn't. Police said she was killed due to a case of mistaken identity.

Other than crediting tips from the public, detectives would not reveal specifically what led them to the suspects.

The criminal complaint accuses all three defendants of gun allegations and the special circumstance allegation that the murder was to benefit a street gang.

Prosecutors are expected to decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Houston and McKnight. Simon cannot face a death sentence because of his age.

Houston and McKnight pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Simon is in juvenile custody and was expected to be arraigned at a later date, according to the District Attorney's Office.

James, who had her daughter in her car, had stopped in the 1700 block of West 85th Street about 10:20 p.m. Dec. 25 to visit a friend when she was shot repeatedly by someone who got out of a blue Chevrolet Tahoe. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Los Angeles City Council had offered a $50,000 reward in the case, while the county Board of Supervisors offered $25,000.