Perry Lee Oakley Jr.
Perry Lee Oakley Jr.
| POLICE NEWS | BLOG: SOUTH BAY CRIME, COURT NEWS | FACEBOOK

Jurors on Tuesday convicted Perry Lee Oakley Jr. of murder in a drunken-driving crash in Gardena last year that killed a 6-year-old boy and his uncle.

Oakley, 35, sat with his head down and his shoulders slumped as the verdicts were read in Torrance Superior Court. He was found guilty of seven felonies, meaning he likely will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Oakley's friends and family members watched in the courtroom alongside relatives of the victims who were killed when Oakley's Acura slammed into a Toyota Camry at 11:30 p.m. on April 9, 2011.

The room was silent other than the court clerk's reading of the verdicts, which included two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, two counts of causing great bodily injury, and fleeing the scene of a crime.

Deputy District Attorney Shannon Cooley, who co-prosecuted the case, said she considered the verdict appropriate given the facts, but not a "win."

"No verdict can commensurate with the loss of the families," said Cooley, the daughter of District Attorney Steve Cooley.


Advertisement

"We trusted that the jury would apply the facts to the law in a way that would render justice."

Judge Mark Arnold ordered Oakley to return to court on Dec. 20 for sentencing and for a hearing on a prior arson charge. Oakley faces a minimum of 35 years to life for each murder conviction alone.

Oakley killed Sylvester Payne Jr., 6, and his uncle Samuel Dickens, 62, when he ran a stop sign and hit the car in which they were back-seat passengers. The driver, Ralph Payne, sustained major injuries and another passenger, Dennis Vann, survived with several broken bones.

Jurors decided that Oakley's actions - speeding, running a stop sign and driving drunk when he had previously attended classes on the dangers of drunken driving - warranted a murder conviction over the lesser manslaughter charges.

Ralph Payne attended the trial but said he hated the process and was not happy to see Oakley convicted.

"It's in God's hands," he said. "It was a freak accident. It could have been anybody. I hate that this whole incident happened."

Of Oakley's conviction, he said: "I don't hope that on nobody."

Oakley's family members declined to comment after the verdict was read.

Oakley was driving on 141st Street in Gardena when he ran the stop sign at nearly 40 mph and hit the Camry at the intersection with Normandie Avenue. Shortly after the crash, Oakley left the scene as rescue officials rushed to free the victims trapped inside the Camry. Forty minutes later, Oakley limped over to an officer a block away and said he had been kidnapped and robbed of his jewelry and cellphone. Officers smelled alcohol on his breath and took several blood-alcohol tests that returned with levels 50 percent above the legal limit for driving of 0.08.

Sylvester was rushed to County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he had a light pulse but could not breath on his own and had massive brain damage, witnesses testified. He was pronounced brain dead after several rounds of tests.

Dickens died at the scene. His wife, Patricia Dickens, said she felt justice had been served after the verdicts were read.

"I lost my husband of 35 years," she said. "I've been heartbroken ever since the accident. It's lonely. It's been a heck of a situation to deal with and I don't wish it on anyone."

Johnay Payne, Sylvester's aunt who raised him, had trouble finding words to describe her feelings about the case.

"I feel a burden lifted," she said. "I went through this whole trial dealing with the accident, I'm not in denial. I'm living it."

sandy.mazza@dailybreeze.com

Follow Sandy Mazza on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sandymazza