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Teen convicted of killing neighbor who was watching her for the weekend

April 5, 1997 GMT

DENVER (AP) _ A 16-year-old girl was sentenced to life without parole for killing a neighbor who was watching her for the weekend and would not allow her to go out with friends.

Jennifer Tombs, stoic throughout her four-day trial, cried Friday when the jury found her guilty of first-degree murder for shooting Latanya Lavallais five times in the back of the head last September. She was immediately sentenced.

``Today, everybody lost,″ said Ms. Lavallais’ sister, Noreen Wilson. ``The only thing is this person will never hurt anybody again. But we didn’t win anything. We just lost two lives for nothing.″

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Ms. Lavallais had been watching Miss Tombs while the girl’s minister mother was at a weekend church retreat.

Prosecutors said the girl was so intent on going out with her friends on Sept. 27 that she shot Ms. Lavallais and then cleaned up the mess.

Tombs’ ex-boyfriend, Joaquin Johnson, testified he gave her a pistol because she said she needed it to protect her baby. Johnson said he later found out there was no baby.

Johnson said Tombs called him about 4 a.m. Sept. 28 to say she had shot a woman who had barged into the house.

``But there was no intruder,″ prosecutor Mike Pellow said during closing arguments. ``That was Latanya Lavallais laying dead in the basement with a full clip emptied into her head.″

Defense attorneys argued that Tombs wasn’t in the house when Ms. Lavallais was shot.

Police later found shell casings on a counter in the Tombs’ home, and the pistol Johnson had loaned Tombs was found under a sewer grate.