February murder of Berkeley resident allegedly committed with hatchet

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Update 3/31/15: The murder charge against Kneitawnye Sessoms was dropped

A couple accused in the February murder of 54-year-old Sylvan Fuselier, who was killed with a hatchet, allegedly robbed the victim and burglarized his residence the night he died, according to court documents obtained Thursday.

The suspects — 28-year-old Michael Diggs and 40-year-old Kneitawnye Sessoms — allegedly murdered Fuselier around Feb. 22, about a week before police discovered the deceased in his West Berkeley apartment. Court documents allege that Diggs committed the murder with a hatchet. The victim and suspects are Berkeley residents, and the case is the city’s first homicide of the year.

In an affidavit, Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Peter Hong wrote that video surveillance footage from the night of Feb. 21 showed Fuselier entering his apartment, followed by a man and a woman. The next morning, footage showed a woman appearing to wipe off door handles as she left the residence, located at 1121 Addison Street, and a man exiting from the back of the apartment several hours later, Hong wrote.

Neighbors said in February that, prior to his death, Fuselier lived alone but that a girlfriend would regularly visit him. A friend of Fuselier’s called the police just before noon on Feb. 28 after not seeing him for several days, according to a Wednesday BPD press release. Investigators determined the victim died of wounds consistent with several sharp instruments, Hong wrote.

Physical evidence placed Diggs inside the victim’s apartment, Hong wrote. On March 12, police said they arrested Diggs for a parole violation and possession of burglary tools. After searching his property, Hong wrote that they found an item that belonged to the victim.

Hong wrote that Diggs confessed to killing Fuselier with two different sharp instruments during an interview with police Tuesday. Diggs also alleged that Sessoms was inside the victim’s home and that the two left the building Feb. 22, Hong wrote. Diggs said he took the victim’s property when he left that morning, police said.

Police officers identified Sessoms as Diggs’ girlfriend and arrested her Monday in Downtown Berkeley. During in-custody interviews, Sessoms admitted she was the woman captured on video leaving the apartment, police said.

Diggs, who works in auto-body repair, was previously convicted of carjacking in 2008.

The victim, Fuselier, was convicted of two counts of second-degree robbery and sentenced to five years in prison in connection with a string of robberies in the East Bay that began in 1994, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He was known as the “Noteman” because he would write short notes to shopkeepers asking them to turn over their cash.

Diggs and Sessoms, who are being held without bail, were arraigned Thursday in Oakland.

If the couple is convicted of murder, they could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kimberly Veklerov is the lead crime reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.