Man gets 21 years to life for killing elderly woman in Berkeley

Nancy Jo McClellan

OAKLAND (BCN) — A 21-year-old Richmond man was sentenced today to 21 years to life in state prison for killing a 72-year-old woman during an attempted kidnapping in Berkeley in 2014.

Kamau Berlin pleaded no contest in December to second-degree murder and attempted carjacking for fatally stabbing Emeryville resident Nancy Jo McClellan.

Prosecutors said Berlin, who was only 18 at the time and attended a Berkeley high school, attacked Nancy Jo McClellan in the vicinity of Russell and Otis streets in Berkeley at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2014.

McClellan, who had been attending a wedding at the nearby Berkeley Zen Center, didn’t die immediately after she was stabbed but never regained consciousness and died on Oct. 8, 2014.

Berkeley police Sgt. Peter Hong testified at Berlin’s preliminary hearing last year that Berlin admitted that he stabbed McClellan and inflicted wounds that led to her death, saying that Berlin’s admission came when he and another officer left Berlin alone in a police car with a hidden tape recorder running.

Hong said Berlin, who had previously invoked his right to have an attorney when officers tried to question him, “was thinking out loud and verbalizing his thoughts” in his comments on the tape recording.

Hong said Berlin said he “didn’t want to go to jail for life and admitted to killing the lady, that he murdered and stabbed the old lady.”

Hong said he ordered that a sexual assault examination be performed on McClellan because her undergarments had been pulled down.

But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Rhonda Burgess ruled at the end of Berlin’s preliminary hearing that there wasn’t enough evidence to order him to stand trial on an attempted rape charge and the special circumstance of committing a murder during an attempted rape.

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