The young man accused of killing a teenage girl during a botched drug deal gets his day in court

By Gary Walker

Defendant Cameron Frazier (left), attorney Alan Nakasone and Judge Kathryn Solorzano in a courtroom scene depicted by artist
Bill Robles.

Like so many 17-year-olds, Kristine Carman had dreams of a bright future. She loved singing, dancing and animals, according to her mother, Misty Reynolds.

“My baby was very artistic,” Reynolds said. “She had her whole life ahead of her.”

This Sunday, she would have been 19 years old.

But on Jan. 6, 2016, Kristine Carman died instantly from a gunshot wound to the head in the back seat of a parked car at Villa Marina Marketplace, the victim of what prosecutors now describe as an armed robbery committed during a drug deal.

Twelve days after the shooting, Los Angeles police detectives arrested alleged gunman Cameron Anthony Frazier, now 23, at his home in northeastern San Diego County.

Frazier is currently standing trial at the Airport Courthouse in Westchester, facing one count of murder with a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, one count of assault with a semiautomatic firearm, and two counts of attempted robbery in the second degree with allegations that he used and fired a handgun.

If convicted of murder, Frazier faces a sentence of up to life in prison without possibility of parole. His attorney, Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Alan Nakasone, who declined to comment for this story, indicated during trial that he will argue that Carman’s death was accidental and ask the jury to consider lesser charges.

Following six days of opening arguments and witness testimony, both the prosecution and defense rested on Monday. Closing arguments began Tuesday afternoon, and the jury is expected to begin deliberating this week.

Meanwhile, the story of how and why Kristine Carman died and the anguish of two grieving families — one for a life taken too soon, the other for a life that could be spent behind bars — continues to play out against the backdrop of the legal system.

Kristine Carman (inset) was found dead inside her sister’s SUV in the Marina Marketplace parking lot along Glencoe Avenue. The car came to rest on the north side of the lot after gunfire erupted near Jerry’s Famous Deli.

A Deadly Deal

During trial, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Eugene Hanrahan offered the jury of nine women and three men the evidence collected against Frazier during the 16-month investigation, including eyewitness testimony that Frazier attempted to rob Carman’s older sister and her sister’s boyfriend before firing the shot that killed Carman.

Lacey Carman and Tyler Odom each testified that Frazier was the man they encountered in the Marina Marketplace parking lot outside Jerry’s Famous Deli in the moments leading up to Carman’s death.

Odom testified that he was meeting Frazier to sell him two pounds of marijuana for $6,000, but Frazier instead drew a handgun, attacked him and then shot into Lacey Carman’s Honda Element.

Lacey Carman, who is now engaged to Odom, testified that she saw Odom and Frazier wrestling on the ground and moved from the front passenger seat into the driver’s seat to lock the car’s doors. She told the court that Frazier “squared off” his body before shooting into her car and then tried to force the driver’s side door open.

During testimony, Hanrahan showed the jury autopsy photos of Kristine Carman, who was shot though her left eye. Her family members sobbed, at times uncontrollably, when those photos were projected onto a large screen. (“That’s
the first time I had seen her like that. It’s devastating,” Reynolds said outside the courtroom. )

Jurors watched Odom attentively during his cross examination, some scribbling notes.

Odom, who testified under immunity from charges of selling drugs, said he had been employed at the time by Primo Caregivers, a medical marijuana dispensary in East Los Angeles. Under questioning from Hanrahan, Odom testified that
he had placed ads in Bud Magazine, an online publication dedicated to promotion of cannabis, to sell the marijuana.

“[Frazier] became agitated as we were talking. Then he started dragging me away,” Odom, who now works as a plumber in Houston, told the jury. Odom also testified that he was able to break free and began running back to the car when he heard gunfire behind him.

“I felt the bullet whiz by me as if it were cutting my hair or my shoulder. It sounded like a whistle,” Odom said.

Frazier, a solidly built young man with black-rimmed glasses, mustache and goatee, stared intently at Odom during his testimony.

Under cross examination by Nakasone, Odom chafed at being characterized as a drug dealer and, although he could not remember the address of Primo Caregivers, claimed that proceeds of the attempted sale to Frazier would have gone to the marijuana collective and not him.

Nakasone pressed Odom on the legality of that transaction.

“Is it your belief that you could sell marijuana outside of your collective?” Nakasone asked.

“Essentially, yes,” Odom answered.

It is illegal for employees of medical marijuana collectives to sell marijuana independently, according to L.A. City Attorney’s Office spokesman Rob Wilcox.

The Argonaut could not reach Primo Caregivers to inquire about Odom’s testimony.

Under oath, Odom said he did not receive a cash salary from the collective but that it covered his “living expenses” — namely a two-bedroom apartment in Marina del Rey, where he lived with Lacey Carman.

Odom chafed at questioning about whether the sisters were involved in the drug sale or that he intended them to be.

“I didn’t bring them along: They wanted to go get something to eat,” Odom countered. “I never disclosed to them what I was doing.”

Lacey Carman testified that she was aware that drug transactions had taken place in the shopping center at Mindanao Way and Glencoe Avenue.

Both testified that neither had given marijuana to Kristine Carman, but Carman’s autopsy revealed that the drug was in her system at the time of her death.

‘The Gun Went Off’

Later in trial, before the defense rested, L.A. Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano reminded Frazier that he had a right to testify on his own behalf.

“I choose not to testify,” Frazier responded in a resonant tone.

But perhaps the most damaging evidence that the prosecution offered against Frazier are his own words.

Detectives testified that, after police found two pounds of marijuana covered with a jacket and towels in the center console of Lacey Carman’s SUV, they traced text and voicemail messages related to the date and location of the attempted drug sale from Odom’s phone to a phone owned by Frazier. That led to a search of Frazier’s apartment in Vista, which produced a red backpack with two 9mm rounds inside a pocket. Odom testified that Frazier wore a similar backpack the night Carman was shot.

“That for us was a very big piece of evidence,” testified LAPD Det. Asia Hodge, one of the case’s lead detectives. “Cell phone records give us a significant amount of information.”

Then on June 7 and 8, Hanrahan showed the jury a videotape of Hodge and Det. Scott Masterson interviewing Frazier at LAPD’s Olympic Division Station, where he was detained after being taken into custody.

Hodge began by trying to establish a rapport with Frazier, asking him about his hobbies and what he did for a living. Frazier responded that he was pursuing a career in real estate financing, hoping to help potential buyers get loans to buy foreclosed homes.

Masterson then gave Frazier a Miranda warning — a legal reminder of the right to an attorney and not to talk to police — prompting Frazier to ask more than once if he needed an attorney.

“Can I get a lawyer present? I don’t want to say anything incriminating here,” Frazier responded.

“What’s going to happen next is we’re going to book you for murder, and the next time that we see each other will be in court,” Masterson fired back.

Frazier, who could be seen leaning against the wall during earlier questioning, sat straight up in his chair when he heard the word “murder.”

“If this is about murder then we can speak,” Frazier said.

Frazier told the detectives that he came to Venice on Jan. 6 to sell a BMW but was unable to locate the potential buyer.

Masterson enumerated evidence police had collected against Frazier and urged him to “tell the truth”: “That story that you just told me was a lie. I want you to get ahead of this,” Masterson said. “The question is: Do you want to stay with
that story?

“We’re playing cards,” Masterson continued, leaning towards Frazier, “and I’ve got a royal flush.”

After a long pause, Frazier told detectives: “I made a mistake.”

Frazier could be heard on tape admitting his presence at the crime scene and that he had come to Marina del Rey to buy marijuana. But he said it was Odom who attacked him — that they struggled on the ground until Odom got to his feet and ran away.

Frazier claimed that in an act of frustration he banged the gun into the driver’s side window of Lacey Carman’s SUV.

“The gun went off. I didn’t point it at anybody,” Frazier told the detectives.

Frazier then told the detectives he heard that “someone had been hurt” during the encounter and took the gun to Carlsbad State Beach, where he threw it into the ocean.

Police later recovered parts of a 9mm semiautomatic pistol in a sandy area of that beach below where Frazier said he threw the gun, but forensics were unable to link that evidence to the murder.

Hodge testified that police did not recover any shell casings from the crime scene and that “without the barrel, there would be no way to match [the gun] to the bullet.”

‘A Big Hole Now’

During each day of the trial, family members of the victim and the defendant have sat on opposite ends of the courtroom, as little as 20 feet apart. They do not exchange glances or awkward half-smiles: They grieve collectively, but alone.

Members of the Frazier family declined to be interviewed; Carman’s mother and husband Tony Reynolds, who raised Kristine Carman since she was six months old, talked about grief.

“There’s no way we can go home until the trial is over. It’s been rough. It’s been rough on all of us,” Tony Reynolds said.

“I talked to [Kristine] that night. She never had a chance to have a future. She never had a boyfriend,” Misty Reynolds recalled, sobbing. “There’s a big hole now.”

She said Lacey Carman (her eldest daughter) has taken Kristine’s death extremely hard, and that her five younger children with Reynolds still ask about Kristine.

“He didn’t just take away my baby, he took away their hero,” she said.