Jessica Kingeter, left, with cousin Cindy Burgos. Photo: Courtesy of Cindy Burgos
Jessica Kingeter, left, with cousin Cindy Burgos. Photo: Courtesy of Cindy Burgos

The Berkeley man convicted in the murder of a young woman he had met only hours earlier, in December 2012, is now facing 25 years to life in prison.

A jury found 36-year-old Jamaal Anthony Prince guilty of first-degree murder just before noon Thursday in the slashing and stabbing death of Jennifer “Jessica” Kingeter on Dec. 28, 2012.

Prince is scheduled for a sentencing hearing Sept. 5 at 9 a.m. in Department 10 before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon R. Rolefson.

Authorities said Prince, after partying with Kingeter and a friend who introduced them, tried to come on to the 26-year-old Berkeley woman. When she refused to have sex with him, authorities said he tortured her with a knife, and ultimately killed her in the bathroom of a borrowed apartment. After sitting in the blood-soaked bathroom for two hours, authorities said he left the apartment and asked a neighbor for help. Prince initially tried to pin the killing on the friend who introduced him to Kingeter; that man testified during the trial that he left before the attack. Ultimately, Prince admitted to police that he killed Kingeter, though he asserted he had committed the killing in self defense.

Victim’s mother: “He shouldn’t have been out”

Thursday afternoon, Kingeter’s mother, Shantee, said the trial had provided some closure for her, despite the continuing emotional toll caused by her daughter’s murder.

“I was so happy to be involved in the whole trial,” she said. “I feel that justice has been served within our California system, which is known for being soft on crime.”

The trial — which included graphic photographs and testimony of the massive and complex injuries Prince inflicted on her daughter — had been a challenge. But she said watching a video of Prince’s interview by police had been reassuring.

“Once I knew he had confessed … and that that was not a question, I relaxed because I knew that the jury would agree that he committed a murder,” she said. “I just tried not to be attached. And certainly the jury made the right decision.”

She said her next step will be to set up meetings with staff from local probation and parole offices to try to push for stiffer penalties for those convicted of violent crimes. She noted that Prince had been released in September 2012, after an attack on his mother, and had then killed Kingeter in December.

“He shouldn’t have been out,” she said. “Thankfully this murderer was caught. But there are a lot of murderers still walking among us.”

Appeal to be filed

Prince’s defense attorney, Al Thews, said he plans to file an appeal of the verdict, which is common practice in jury trials. He had asked the jury earlier this week to return a voluntary manslaughter verdict, and said his client had acted in self-defense and in the heat of passion.

“I respect the jury for their verdict, and I disagree with it,” Thews said Thursday.

He said, under state law, Prince would not be eligible for his first parole hearing for quite some time, assuming the conviction is upheld. Sentences are usually reduced, generally speaking, by about 15% for time served and if an inmate’s behavior qualifies as good, by working and not getting into trouble while incarcerated, said Thews. So Prince would not have a parole hearing prior to 25 years minus what that specific amount is determined to be.

Prince agreed to wait longer than usual for sentencing to allow for the completion of a probation report that will include a summary of his charges and offenses, his history, any mitigating or aggravating circumstances, any fines he will be assessed, and other materials.

Prior to the sentencing hearing, those who knew Kingeter are able to submit letters to the court about her life and loss. Supporters of Prince are able to submit letters on his behalf as well. The day of that hearing, Kingeter’s mother will have the chance to present or read a victim impact statement as part of the proceedings.

Thursday afternoon, Alameda County prosecutor Danielle Hilton agreed not to ask the judge to factor Prince’s prior convictions into his sentencing.

That could have added several years to the sentence, but — under state law — would have required new fingerprints from Prince and expert testimony to prove that Prince himself had previously served the time, Thews explained, if Prince had not been willing to agree that he had been in prison before.

Jamaal Prince, via Facebook
Jamaal Prince, via Facebook

According to the district attorney’s office, at the time of Prince’s arrest in 2012, he was already a five-time felon. According to court papers, Prince was convicted in 2010 in Alameda County for assault likely to cause great bodily injury, and was sent to prison.

This followed a 2008 conviction in Alameda County for vandalism; a 1999 felony conviction in Alameda County for possession of a firearm by a felon; a 1996 felony conviction in Alameda County for grand theft; and a 2008 felony conviction in Stanislaus County for leaving the scene of a traffic accident resulting in death or permanent or serious injury.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Prince was released from prison in September 2012, after being sentenced to five years and eight months in prison in November 2010. Prince served his sentence, and received “day for day” credit for time served, a spokesman for the department explained previously to Berkeleyside. That means, essentially, he received a day of credit for every day of “good behavior” while incarcerated.

According to a previous interview with the Alameda County district attorney’s office, none of Prince’s prior felony convictions were serious enough, under the state criminal code, to count toward the state’s “three strikes” law, which can result in a sentence of 25 years to life for people convicted of three or more serious offenses.

Prior to the Kingeter case, Prince was sent to prison after authorities said he tried to choke his mother, Jacqueline Stewart, while he was “high on drugs” and ranting to himself in 2010. In a 911 call recorded during the incident “Prince can be heard telling his mother that she is going to die and Stewart is heard screaming for help,” according to the Oakland Tribune.

According to that story, Prince’s mother gave a similar version of the attack to police initially, but later “recanted her statement and downplayed the events” after she learned her son had been charged with three felonies, which could have sent him to prison for nine years.

Family of defendant: Not a fair trial

Stewart said this week she did not think her son got a fair trial in the Kingeter case, in part because the victim was white and her son is black.

Thursday afternoon, another Prince supporter, who asked to be identified only as the mother of one of his four children due to the nature of the case, echoed earlier complaints from Stewart, saying Prince’s attorney did not put on a solid defense and did not present enough evidence.

The family also said that the trial judge erred by mentioning O.J. Simpson in an explanation about types of verdicts to the jury, which may have unfairly biased the group.

The woman said, too, that there should have been a co-defendant in the case. She said Julius Johnson, who introduced Kingeter to Prince and testified that he left her in the apartment after Prince began making sexual advances and acting “psycho,” should have been on trial too. The woman said Johnson took off for five days in Kingeter’s car, and did not call police after he left the apartment, even though he said he was concerned about Kingeter’s wellbeing.

“We’re not saying Jamaal didn’t do anything,” the woman said. “But he should have had a co-defendant.”

Jury deliberations begin in killing of Berkeley woman (07.09.14)
Trial begins in stabbing death of Berkeley woman (07.02.14)
On murdered Berkeley woman’s birthday, alleged killer ordered to face charges (01.15.14)
Relatives remember slain Berkeley woman (01.07.13)
New details emerge in stabbing of Berkeley woman (01.04.13)
5-time felon charged with murder of Berkeley woman (01.03.13)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...