Preliminary hearing reveals new details of December murder in Berkeley

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OAKLAND — At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, an in-court testimony provided new details about the circumstances surrounding the December murder of 36-year-old Kamahl Middleton in West Berkeley.

Khalil Phanor, 18; Carl Young, 20; and Gregory Foote, 19, allegedly murdered and robbed Middleton in a parking lot located on University and San Pablo avenues Dec. 29. According to court documents, Phanor intentionally discharged the firearm that caused Middleton’s death.

At the hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon heard the testimony of Rebekah Cleberg, Middleton’s fiancee at the time of his death. Cleberg, 29, was also a gunshot-wound victim, who was hit in the arm by the same blast that killed Middleton.

Young entered Middleton’s car during a marijuana deal, asking to see the drugs, Cleberg testified in court. According to Cleberg, Young then ripped open a bag of marijuana, proceeded to exit the car and picked up the pieces.

Cleberg testified that another man ran up to the vehicle with a shotgun and said, “This is a fucking stick-up.”

The man shot Middleton once, Cleberg testified, killing Middleton and injuring Cleberg, who was in the backseat at the time. After the shooting, the two men ran from the vehicle, Cleberg said. Middleton was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to court documents, on Feb. 23, Phanor was charged with murder in the course of a robbery with the intentional discharge of a firearm, and Young was charged with aiding and abetting murder while committing robbery. Foote was arraigned March 3 with charges identical to Young’s.

Cleberg said she and Middleton had been growing marijuana at their home for about four years when they posted ads on Craigslist soliciting trade offers and donations from medical marijuana patients for different amounts of marijuana.

Prior to the murder, Cleberg said, they had arranged through a phone call to meet with Young to exchange a pound and a half of marijuana for $3,200. Young texted two photos — of his California state ID and medical marijuana card — to Cleberg and Middleton before meeting them to confirm he could legally possess marijuana, Cleberg testified.

She testified that the photos she received were too blurry to confirm the medical marijuana card’s recommendation ID number, which she received later through a text message and then verified online.

She noted at the hearing that she felt relieved when she recognized the man walking toward their car as Young, whom she said was pictured in the photo ID, and that she “didn’t think they’d do something stupid or crazy” because she had a copy of Young’s ID.

The preliminary hearing is set to continue Thursday and possibly the rest of the week. The hearing will include additional witnesses and evidence from both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ayoonhendricks.