With preliminary hearing, new details emerge in city’s 1st murder case of 2014

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

OAKLAND — At a preliminary hearing Tuesday, in-court testimony provided new details about the crime scene of 54-year-old Sylvan Fuselier’s murder, Berkeley’s first homicide this year.

Berkeley residents Michael Diggs, 29, and Kneitawnye Sessoms, 41, allegedly murdered and robbed Fuselier and burglarized his residence at 1121 Addison St. in February. Police discovered the body Feb. 28 after responding to a phone call from a friend of Fuselier who had not seen him for several days.

At the hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon heard testimonies from Sgt. Peter Hong of Berkeley Police Department and Tristan Ramirez, Diggs’ parole agent at the time of Fuselier’s death.

Hong related details of the crime scene while video clips of the scene were played at the hearing. According to Hong, by the time he arrived on the scene, Berkeley firefighters and paramedics had already entered the premises and pronounced Fuselier dead.

Police found Fuselier’s body in the living room under several couch cushions and cardboard boxes. He was wrapped in a rug and blanket, with a pajama top wrapped around his head, according to Hong. A white substance was also found on the body, which the coroner and police suspected to be mold.

The body showed evidence of trauma to the head, neck and right forearm, Hong said. According to court documents, a hatchet was one of multiple sharp instruments used to inflict deep wounds.

Police found blood stains on the couch where Fuselier’s head had rested, on the ground and floor underneath his body and on the pillows covering his body, Hong said. They also found an empty bottle of bleach near the body and Epsom bath salts sprinkled over the body and all items in the vicinity.

According to Hong, certain parts of the apartment were in disarray: In the bedroom, the contents of the closets had been emptied onto the bed, while in the kitchen, most cabinets were found open and trash was on the ground. Blue stains — possibly laundry detergent— splattered the toilet, bathtub and a towel on the floor of Fuselier’s bathroom, Hong said.

According to the landlord, Hong said, Fuselier normally kept the apartment “tidy and organized.”

Hong said Fuselier’s girlfriend at the time of his death told him that Fuselier’s body was found where he usually slept — with his head toward the couch and his feet toward the TV, lying on top of five pillows.

The last time Fuselier’s girlfriend saw him was about midnight on Feb. 21, when the two parted ways from a pool hall on Shattuck Avenue. When police arrived at the scene, they found two notes that she had taped to the door, asking Fuselier to contact her. Fuselier’s girlfriend did not recognize Diggs or Sessoms by name or when shown their photos, Hong said.

At the hearing, the judge also heard an account of Diggs’ three arrests since Oct. 21 of last year. According to Ramirez, Diggs was most recently arrested March 12 for allegedly absconding from parole and possessing burglary tools.

Sessoms was also arrested in March, after police said they identified her in footage from surveillance cameras at Fuselier’s residence.

Excerpts of surveillance footage are planned to be shown at a continuation of the hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

Contact Amy Jiang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ajiang_dc.