LOS ANGELES (AP) — One of two U.S. men charged in the 2012 fatal shootings of two Chinese graduate students pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of first-degree murder and was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

By pleading guilty, Bryan Barnes, 21, avoided a possible death penalty trial.

Ming Qu, 23, and Ying Wu, 23, were shot to death on April 11, 2012, as they sat in a car near the University of Southern California. Police said the shooting was linked to a robbery, possibly of the victims’ cellphones.

Barnes was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus two terms of 25 years to life.

Co-defendant Javier Bolden, 21, is awaiting trial on murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

The case has drawn wide international interest. The parents of the students have filed a lawsuit accusing USC of misrepresenting security at the campus, where nearly one-fifth of the 38,000 students are from overseas, including 2,500 from China. USC says it has more international students than any other U.S. university.

USC lawyer Debra Wong Yang said the university was deeply saddened by the deaths but found the lawsuit to be baseless.

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