San Diego

‘Forever Pain': Family at Sentencing for Man Who Murdered Mother With Child in Arms

The father of a woman who was shot to death while shielding her 11-month-old baby told the court Thursday her murderer should have received the death penalty. 

Roderick Lamar Harris shot 29-year-old Vanessa Marie Bobo in their shared apartment in Lake Murray on October 12, 2016. When Vanessa Bobo was shot, she was shielding their baby, who was just 9 days away from his first birthday. Vanessa Bobo's 5-year-old son witnessed his mother's murder and later helped officers identify Harris. 

Harris was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison Thursday for Vanessa Bobo's death. 

Vanessa Bobo's family was in the courtroom as Harris received his sentence. They wore purple and had monarch butterflies pinned to their chests in her honor. One by one the family read prepared statements to Harris. 

Vanessa Bobo's Father, Brady, spoke first. He told the courtroom that Harris' sentence wasn't harsh enough for the pain he caused. 

"What I would like is the death penalty, but it’s not even an option that was made available," Brady Bobo said. "I believe that if you take a life you should surrender your life.

"35 to life is a quantitative number that was not offered to Vanessa because at this point, he has 14 more months that he gave her."

Harris kept his head bowed, eyes closed, as each person spoke. 

“What Roderick did just like stab me straight in the heart," mother Maria Bobo said. "Wounded me with so much pain, excruciating pain, without relief forever. I want to ask him, what did I do to him to deserve this forever pain?"

Vanessa Bobo's oldest sister, Latoya Robinson, said she had not been able to eat in the months after learning about her sister's death. She said that all she could do was think about all the plans they had made, like Vanessa Bobo's son's first birthday party, a family white elephant gift exchange and trips with their kids. 

“We were supposed to go to the zoo on the 20th, but how could I tell my kids that the man that they would have soon called uncle had shamelessly, needlessly, coldly and heartlessly, without batting an eye, had murdered their aunt,” Robinson said through tears. 

Harris said in a statement read by his attorney Thursday that no one hates him more than he hates himself.

“Mr. Harris could not live with the idea of not taking responsibility for what he has done and for traumatizing his children and not providing closure to them,” his attorney told the judge. 

In October 2016, Vanessa Bobo was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in her apartment complex on Lake Arrowhead Drive, near Navajo Road. 

Witnesses told officers with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) that they heard a fight, gunshots and then saw a man fleeing the home. When officers arrived at the scene, they found Bobo's lifeless body and the victim's 5-year-old son and crying baby inside the apartment.

After talking with Bobo's older child, officers identified Bobo's boyfriend, Harris, as the suspect in the shooting.

Harris was nowhere to be found, and police launched a search for the suspect, releasing a photograph of Harris to the public, warning that he was considered armed and dangerous.

Several hours into the manhunt, Harris was arrested near the 200 block of Woodlawn Avenue in Chula Vista.

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