Siblings and cousins of D’Angelo Branch nodded silently Friday as they heard the jury’s guilty verdict in their loved one’s slaying.

One man wrote the convicted killer’s sentencing date in a crossword puzzle book so he would remember it.

A jury on Friday afternoon convicted Malik Stelly, 33, of first-degree murder in the slaying of Branch, 28.

Prosecutors said Branch had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old. He was born with hydrocephalus.

Branch was a block from his mother’s home early on the morning of Jan. 11 when Stelly opened fire near 36th Street and Laurel Avenue.

At a court hearing in March, a police officer said a Crime Stoppers tip indicated that the two men didn’t know each other. Rather, the tipster said, the shooting was “target practice.”

Eleven shell casings were found at the scene. Branch was shot in the legs, the abdomen and multiple times in the head.

“He was innocent, and he shouldn’t have had to go through that,” said Branch’s older sister, Carlisa Branch. “He had a big heart.”

Jurors deliberated for about a day before returning the guilty verdict, which also included two weapons charges.

In the nearly seven-day trial, prosecutors cited circumstantial evidence that jurors thought was strong enough to convict Stelly.

Stelly’s cellphone was found 15 to 20 feet from Branch’s body.

Stelly had purchased a black hat with the California state flag on it for his birthday that evening. Police found the hat in Stelly’s apartment with blood underneath the bill that was a virtual match to Branch’s.

Witnesses saw a silver PT Cruiser driving away from the area right after the shooting, which a surveillance camera recording corroborated.

John Alagaban, an assistant prosecutor with the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, said Branch’s family has suffered a lot.

“We’re very appreciative of the jury’s work,” he said.

Carlisa Branch thanked authorities for their hard work and others for their prayers.

“It won’t bring our brother back, but we can finally have some closure,” she said. “Justice had to be served.”

alia.conley@owh.com, 402-444-1068

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