Kamau Berlin pleads no contest to carjacking, murder of elderly woman

Dapree Doyle/Senior Staff

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A man charged with the 2014 murder of an elderly woman in Berkeley will be sentenced to 21 years to life under the conditions of a plea deal he accepted in December.

Kamau Berlin pleaded no contest to second degree murder and carjacking. Berlin allegedly assaulted 72-year-old Nancy McClellan during an attempted carjacking near the intersection of Russell and Otis streets Sept. 19, 2014. Police reportedly found McClellan in the backseat of her car, bleeding from stab wounds to the neck. She died two weeks later from the injuries she sustained during the attack.

McClellan was on her way home from a wedding when she was assaulted. She was the head gardener at Berkeley Zen Center and had previously worked as a paralegal in San Francisco for 20 years.

In 2015, California adopted a law stipulating that those convicted of crimes committed when they were younger than 23 are eligible for a youth offender parole hearing. Berlin, now 20, was 18 when he committed the crime and therefore is eligible for this specialized parole hearing. Berlin’s attorney, Kathleen Ryals, said he is expected to be up for parole in 20 years.

Previously, only those who committed crimes when they were younger than 18 were eligible for these hearings, giving weight to the diminished culpability of youth and any increased maturity of the convicted individual.

Berlin’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place March 2, but Ryals said she expects the process to carry over into May.

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.