A 2011 photograph of Kamau Berlin. Source: Facebook
A 2011 photograph of Kamau Berlin. Source: Facebook

The Alameda County district attorney’s office on Friday charged 18-year-old Kamau Berlin with murder in the stabbing death of 72-year-old Nancy McClellan in South Berkeley in September.

Berlin — a B-Tech student — also has been charged with attempted rape, attempted robbery and attempted carjacking, as well as elder abuse resulting in death.

He appeared in court Friday morning, as did about half a dozen family members and supporters, and had been scheduled to enter a plea in the case.

Berlin’s plea was postponed until Jan. 9 due to the addition of significant charges in the case.

His family declined to comment to the media Friday morning.

See Berkeleyside’s complete coverage of the case.

Also in attendance were about nine of McClellan’s supporters from the Berkeley Zen Center. McClellan was mortally stabbed Sept. 19 after leaving a wedding at the center, near Russell and Otis streets.

Nancy Jo McClellan. Photo: Courtesy of McClellan family and friends/BPD
Nancy Jo McClellan. Photo: Courtesy of McClellan family and friends/BPD

According to court papers, a witness said she was walking by a Honda parked on Russell when she saw a woman on the ground and bleeding from the face. A man was trying to start the Honda, but was unsuccessful. The woman — McClellan — asked the passer-by for help, and the man picked her up and put her into the back of the car. He told the witness he was “just trying to help her,” according to police.

“He’s not helping me,” McClellan told the witness, and continued to ask for assistance. The witness called 911.

A second witness heard a woman screaming for help, and looked outside to see a young man making “punching motions” into the rear passenger area of the parked Honda.

When officers arrived, they found Berlin on Otis south of Russell. He fled into residential yards, going westbound and onto rooftops, police said.

In the meantime, another officer performed CPR on McClellan until paramedics arrived.

An officer was able to detain Berlin on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, near Otis. He “had blood stains on his face and on the front of his shirt and pants,” according to court papers.

Both witnesses identified Berlin as the person they saw near the Honda, according to police.

McClellan — who was stabbed twice in the throat with a knife, severing her carotid artery — was taken to Highland Hospital for treatment. She never regained consciousness, and succumbed to her injuries in October.

According to police, Berlin made “incriminating admissions” to the crime during jail phone calls.

According to Friday’s amended complaint, Berlin has been charged with murder with a knife. That charge includes special circumstances alleging that the killing took place during the course of an attempted carjacking, rape and robbery, and an “elderly victim” clause because McClellan was over 70 years old.

He faces three additional felony counts for the attempted rape, carjacking and robbery. In addition, he has been charged with a fifth felony: elder or dependent abuse resulting in death.

Woman killed in South Berkeley remembered as artist, humorist, lover of plants and pets (10.24.14)
Op-ed: After fatal stabbing, be the change in South Berkeley (10.08.14)
Emeryville woman dies weeks after Berkeley stabbing (10.08.14)
Teen charged in stabbing of 72-year-old woman (09.24.14)
18-year-old arrested in stabbing of 72-year-old woman (09.22.14)

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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...