Murder charge against 1 of 2 suspects dropped in Berkeley’s 1st homicide of 2014

Kimberly Veklerov/Senior Staff

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OAKLAND — After three days of preliminary examinations, the Alameda County Superior Court will no longer be pursuing a murder charge against one of two suspects in the Sylvan Fuselier case, the city’s first of two homicides this year.

Kneitawnye Sessoms, 41, had been charged alongside her boyfriend, Michael Diggs, 29, for the February murder of Fuselier. But because there was no physical evidence at the scene to implicate Sessoms, the murder charge against her was dismissed.

The charges against both defendants had carried special-circumstance allegations because the murder was allegedly committed while robbing the victim and burglarizing his residence. For Diggs, the special-circumstance clauses were dropped. He still faces the murder charge, which contains a use of deadly weapon clause.

But the charge and its special-circumstance clauses against Sessoms were dropped, and she is now “free to go,” said her attorney, James Giller. Sessoms is a Berkeley resident and has at least one daughter who lives in the city.

“She might know the guy, but what did she do?” Giller said at the hearing, referring to the possibility that Sessoms knew Fuselier. “There’s no evidence she did anything.”

Fuselier’s body was discovered in the living room of his apartment at 1121 Addison St. approximately one week after he was killed.

Brenda Williams, Fuselier’s girlfriend at the time, said Fuselier used to sleep in the bedroom but moved to the living room because he was paranoid his downstairs neighbors were listening in on his conversations, testified Sgt. Peter Hong of Berkeley Police Department. The body was in a position in which he usually slept, according to Williams.

In a search of the apartment, police found notes that were written by Fuselier about his neighbors that supported the idea he was paranoid about them, Hong testified.

Williams told Hong that when she parted ways with Fuselier on Feb. 21, they had been arguing because she won against him at pool and because he was tipsy from alcohol, Hong said.

Williams also said in two conversations with Hong that Fuselier was a packrat and that the bedroom was messy the last time she visited. Fuselier soaked his clothes in buckets in the bathroom and hallway when he occasionally urinated on himself from drinking too much alcohol, Williams told Hong.

Fuselier’s blood alcohol level was found to be .34 on the night of the murder, and a significant amount of methamphetamine was found in his blood, according to in-court testimony.

While examining Diggs’ property, police found several Sharpie pens and an LG phone. Police took apart the pens and found bags containing a crystalline substance, which appeared to be methamphetamine, according to Hong.

From a conversation with Sessoms’ daughter, Hong learned that Sessoms was homeless and lived on Hearst Avenue at the time, wore wigs and was dating a man named “Faces,” a street name by which Diggs goes.

Hong and two BPD officers arrested Sessoms on March 31 on Center Street. She was not immediately told she was a suspect.

In an interrogation with Hong on April 1, Diggs said Fuselier walked naked into the bathroom where Sessoms was showering then tried to force her to have sex with him. Diggs repeatedly said during the interrogation that Sessoms did not hurt the victim.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero believed Diggs’ statements were inconsistent with physical evidence from the scene.

Diggs said in an interrogation that he attacked Fuselier with a hatchet as he left the bathroom, but no blood stains were found in the bathroom when police arrived at the scene Feb. 28.

It would not have been logical for Diggs to attack the victim in the bathroom then move the body to the living room in a sleeping position, Lamiero said.

The next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 6.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov and Amy Jiang at [email protected].