Hearing for city’s 1st homicide of 2014 continues with testimony, surveillance footage

Sophie Ho/Senior Staff

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

OAKLAND — Judge Thomas Reardon heard testimony from Sgt. Peter Hong of Berkeley Police Department at a continued preliminary examination Wednesday for the murder of 54-year-old Sylvan Fuselier, Berkeley’s first of two homicides this year.

Police found Fuselier’s body Feb. 28 inside his apartment at 1121 Addison St. in response to a phone call from a friend of Fuselier’s who had not seen him for several days. Michael Diggs, 29, and Kneitawnye Sessoms, 41, were arrested in March and later charged with murder.

The charges contained special-circumstance clauses because the two were allegedly committing robbery and burglary at the time of the murder. The murder charge against Diggs contained a deadly weapon clause for alleged use of a hatchet.

An autopsy March 3 determined that the cause of Fuselier’s death was sharp force injuries to the head and neck, Hong testified. Incised or chop wounds were found on the victim’s head, and cut wounds were found on his neck, right forearm and right hand.

Surveillance footage played at the hearing showed Fuselier entering his apartment on the night of Feb. 21, immediately followed by two individuals — one female and one male.

The female suspect had long, dark hair with curls, according to Hong. Police found a wig with the same appearance in Fuselier’s bedroom, beneath a pile of clothes and household items on the bed.

The male suspect wore a beanie and carried a backpack, Hong said. Police believed that two objects protruding from the male suspect’s backpack were golf clubs.

Footage from the next morning showed the female suspect exiting through the main entrance to the four-unit apartment at approximately 8 a.m., according to Hong, and the male suspect exiting through the driveway next to the building at approximately 10:17 a.m. Upon exit, the female suspect appeared to be rubbing the inside doorknob while wearing gloves, Hong testified.

Plastic bottles of cleaning supplies were recovered from the apartment for fingerprints, and four matches were reported to Hong on March 21, he said. One print was matched to Fuselier, two were matched to Diggs, and one has yet to be determined, according to Hong’s testimony.

When informed of the fingerprint match, Hong said, police began investigating Diggs and discovered that he was in custody at Santa Rita Jail after a March 12 arrest for an alleged parole violation and possession of burglary tools.

Hong obtained a warrant to examine Diggs’ property and found, among other items, a key labeled “outside back” in blue ink that was “virtually identical” to one found in Fuselier’s bedroom labeled “inside back,” according to Hong.

A man arrested with Diggs for the alleged possession of burglary tools had a red suitcase that resembled the luggage seen in surveillance footage with the male suspect leaving Fuselier’s residence, Hong testified.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Thursday 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.