Oakland resident pleads guilty to Berkeley murders

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Oakland resident Curtis Martin III will be sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 3 with no option for parole after pleading guilty July 19 to two Berkeley murders which occurred in 2009.

Martin, 41, was arrested in 2009 for the murders of  both his girlfriend, Zoelina Williams, and her 17- month-old son, Jashon Williams. He was arrested on Nov. 13 after Zoelina William’s body was found allegedly beaten and shot to death the same day on the shoreline of the Berkeley Aquatic Water Park, according to a report by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Two days after Zoelina Williams’s death, the body of  her son was found floating in the water at the Berkeley Marina, but due to severe decomposition of the infant’s body, an autopsy was unable to identify the cause of death, according to the report.

According to the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick, Martin pled guilty on Thursday, the day his jury trial was set to begin. He pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and to both counts of murder of Zoelina Williams and Jashon Williams.

“It was somewhat surprising,” said Martin’s lawyer Deborah Levy. “… We were gearing up for trial and picking a jury and Mr. Martin decided he wanted to resolve the case and just plead guilty. It is my belief that Mr. Martin did not want the publicity of trial … being in the paper and on the news.”

According to Levy, the case was originally a death penalty case but prosecutors decided not to pursue the death penalty for Martin before Levy became Martin’s lawyer. Levy also said Martin was moved to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin toward the end of the trial.

According to the report, Martin also admitted to three prior felony convictions and three special circumstances for killing a witness, killing by means of lying in wait and killing more than one victim.

Drenick said Curtis’ guilty plea was unexpected because in usual cases, the defendant would only plead guilty after an agreement had already been negotiated between the defense and the prosecution involved in the case.

“Most of the time, people enter guilty pleas pursuant to negotiated dispositions,” Drenick said. “That’s the norm. The accused pleads guilty to some accounts, and other (accounts) are dismissed. In this case, it did not occur. The accused pled guilty to everything that was charged.”

Court documents reveal that Martin had been accused of violence before the two murders. In December 2007, Martin allegedly hit, choked and stomped on a female Oakland resident, leading to her hospitalization.

In the documents, the woman said Martin had also threatened violence against her son. Though the woman, who gave investigators a different name out of fear for her safety, was granted a restraining order against Martin a year later in September 2008, charges against Martin were not made at the time.