OAKLAND — On Friday, a criminal charge against 18-year-old Kamau Berlin was amended from attempted murder to murder, and a count of attempted forcible rape was added — more than a month after the woman he allegedly stabbed several times during an attempted carjacking died from her injuries.
Berlin, who is from Richmond, stands accused of assaulting Oakland resident Nancy McClellan, 72, during an attempted carjacking of her vehicle Sept. 19. On Friday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged him with counts of murder, attempted robbery, attempted carjacking, attempted forcible rape and elder abuse.
At the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, Berlin waived a formal arraignment. His plea hearing was postponed until Jan. 9 due to the amended charges.
There have been several court hearings leading up to Friday’s appearance — resulting in part from deliberations over Berlin’s attorney, according to Mark Copithorne, a friend of McClellan’s who attended previous proceedings. After going back and forth between representation by a public defender and a private attorney, public defender Kathy Ryals was ultimately assigned to represent Berlin.
Berlin was originally charged with attempted carjacking and attempted murder, both of which are felonies. No allegations of rape were previously disclosed by police.
The charges against Berlin were heightened because the victim was elderly and suffered great bodily injury. Charges were also enhanced because Berlin allegedly used a knife, classified as a dangerous and deadly weapon.
According to an affidavit written by Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Peter Hong, a witness reported hearing a woman cry for help at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 near the intersection of Russell and Otis streets. When police arrived at the scene, the alleged perpetrator had fled.
About a block away, an officer detained Berlin, who had blood stains on his face and clothing, according to the affidavit. McClellan was transported with life-threatening injuries first to a hospital and later to a care facility, where she died about two weeks later. The case marked the second homicide in Berkeley this year.
Copithorne said he had known McClellan — whom he met at the Berkeley Zen Center, where they both practiced — for more than 20 years. He and other friends from the center have tried to attend every hearing for Berlin.
McClellan, who was the head gardener at the center, had a master’s degree in fine arts and worked as a paralegal in San Francisco for 20 years. She was on her way home from a wedding when she was assaulted.
Berlin is being held at Santa Rita Jail without bail, according to the Alameda County Inmate Locator.