Testimony continues on 2nd day of preliminary hearing for December Berkeley murder

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OAKLAND — Thursday marked the second day of a preliminary hearing for the December murder of 36-year-old Kamahl Middleton in West Berkeley and included testimony from police in addition to further testimony from a surviving victim of the incident.

On Dec. 29, 18-year-old Khalil Phanor, 20-year-old Carl Young and 19-year-old Gregory Foote allegedly murdered and robbed Middleton in a parking lot located on University and San Pablo avenues. According to court documents, Phanor intentionally discharged the firearm that killed Middleton.

As on Wednesday, the first day of testimony, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon again heard testimony from Rebekah Cleberg, Middleton’s then-fiancee. Cleberg, 29, suffered injuries to her arm from the same shotgun blast that killed Middleton. On Wednesday, she recounted how she and Middleton had planned to trade Young a pound and a half of marijuana for $3,200 after attempting to verify his state ID and his license to possess medical marijuana.

Thursday’s hearing focused more on specific details of Cleberg’s testimony, including her identification of the suspects. Though Cleberg said in court that she had a clear view of the man approaching Middleton’s car and that she had “no ambivalence” about identifying him as Young, she said she saw the man who shot Middleton for only a few seconds. She first identified Phanor on Wednesday, when he appeared in court, and said her previous identification attempts were made while she was recovering from surgery or suffering from anxiety.

Cleberg said her recollection of the crime has improved since December because of trauma counseling. She said that now she can remember even small details about the incident, such as the smell of gunpowder.

“(It was) not purposefully that I was blocking out a lot of the memories, because it was so painful,” she said. “Everything is clearer now.”

The court also heard testimony from Berkeley Police Department detective Jesse Grant, the lead investigator on the case. He said the coroner found that Middleton died from shotgun pellet wounds to the shoulder and chest and that Middleton had facial abrasions consistent with a fall.

According to Grant’s testimony, Foote told him in an interview that the crime was planned as a “snatch-and-grab” strong-arm robbery, with Foote driving and other participants tasked with bringing weapons and taking the marijuana. Foote said in the interview that he agreed to take part in the crime in exchange for gas money and a share of the stolen marijuana, Grant testified.

The preliminary hearing will continue Monday.

G. Haley Massara is a news editor. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter @BylineGraph.