Michael Lawrence, Rico Saldana found guilty - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Michael Lawrence, Rico Saldana found guilty in murder of 6-year-old Layla Jones

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(01/22/14) - It was a dramatic ending in a Saginaw County courtroom, as the verdicts were delivered to two men accused of killing a 6-year-old girl.

Layla Jones died in August 2012, shot outside a home in Saginaw during a family get-together.

One man had already been convicted of murder for her death, and Wednesday, two others learned their fate.

Security was extremely tight in the courtroom, as about a dozen law enforcement officers were on hand as the verdicts for Michael Lawrence and Rico Saldana were read.

"You never know what the jury is going to come back and say, so I was shaking," said Julie Polk, Layla's mother.

The jury foreperson started with 22-year-old Saldana, guilty of first degree murder, and then the 24-year-old Lawrence, guilty as well. In all, both men were convicted on 20 felonies each.

A deputy ordered Lawrence to stand, as everyone is requested to do when the jury leaves the courtroom. As he left the courtroom, he spoke to friends and family.

Lawrence, Saldana, and Levonne Greer, who was convicted of first degree murder in the case last year, were accused of being in a car where the gunshots came from that hit Layla outside a home on Essling. A fourth man, whose testimony was crucial in the conviction of the three men, is scheduled for trial next week, charged with being an accessory in the crime.

Testimony in the trial indicated the car the men were riding in was also shot at.

Saldana's mother angrily left the courtroom, asking police why they haven't found the person who shot at the car.

"I was disappointed in the jury's verdict, I didn't believe there was any evidence to find my client guilty," said Jim Piazza, Saldana's attorney.

Saginaw County Prosecutor, John McColgan, disagreed.

"We are very pleased that we could bring closure to the victim's family, it's important to get people like this off the streets," he said.

Polk says she now has closure. She lives in Wisconsin, but has been coming back to Saginaw quite often for court proceedings. She was in the courtroom as the verdicts were read.

"I can rest, my baby's memory can rest, and I'm just very thankful," she said. "Layla was taken from me, and I just want her to rest, and I want her to rest because I love my baby and I don't mean no harm for their other families, but out of respect, if it was their child, they would do the same thing."

Polk has also returned to Saginaw to speak at anti-crime meetings in hopes her heartbreak will never have to be experienced by any other parent.

"No mom should have to go through not being able to take their baby home," she said.

"The strength, I just hope we can all have her strength," McColgan said of Polk.

That strength was evident when she was asked what she wants for Lawrence and Saldana.

"God bless them, God bless them," she said.

Both men face mandatory life in prison.

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