Murder trial ends in guilty verdicts

A jury announced Tuesday that it handed down guilty verdicts to two men in an Oakland triple-murder case — nearly four and a half years after the incident occurred.

After deliberating for nearly a week, the jury found Asmerom Gebreselassie, 47, and Tewodros Gebreselassie, 43, guilty of all 14 charges filed against them, including killing three people, kidnapping their 2-year-old nephew Isaac and attempting to kill one other person.

They now face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2006, former Berkeley High School student Yonas Mehari, then 17, was fatally shot on Thanksgiving Day in his family’s North Oakland apartment on Telegraph Avenue, along with his mother, Regbe Bahrengasi, then 50, and his sister, Winta Mehari, then 28. Asmerom Gebreselassie — the brother-in-law of Winta Mehari — was accused of shooting the three victims, while his brother, Tewodros Gebreselassie, was accused of helping to plan the shooting.

Prosecutors have said the shooting was an act of revenge in response to the death of Abraham Tewolde — the Gebreselassies’ brother and Winta Mehari’s husband — in March 2006 and that the brothers suspected Winta Mehari had killed Tewolde to acquire $500,000 from his life insurance policy.

The cause of death was not ultimately determined, and the Berkeley Police Department has not found any evidence to suggest that Tewolde’s death was a homicide.

The Gebreselassie brothers testified in 2008 that they acted out of self-defense, claiming the Mehari family attacked the two to prevent them from revealing to the community that Merhawi Mehari, one of Winta Mehari’s brothers, was gay. The defendants also claimed that Tewolde had revealed to them that Merhawi Mehari was molesting Tewolde and Winta Mehari’s son Isaac.

The two men will be sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara on Aug. 2.

Allie Bidwell is the news editor.

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