A prosecutor told jurors today that a former Navy-enlisted man from Oakland “made a cold, calculated decision to kill” five young women in gruesome fashion in the East Bay over a four-month span in 1985.
In his closing argument in Anthony McKnight's death penalty trial in Alameda County Superior Court, prosecutor Jim Meehan said McKnight “knew what he was doing” and chose isolated locations, such as parks and industrial areas, to kill his victims.
McKnight, 54, who lived in Oakland and was assigned to the Alameda Naval Air Station, “made a choice” to kill the women and nothing suggests he acted with a rash impulse,” Meehan said.
Meehan said DNA evidence, such as McKnight's semen, ties McKnight to all five alleged victims. He asked jurors to convict McKnight of five counts of murder plus six special circumstances clauses.
The special circumstances are for committing murder during rape and sodomy and for multiple murder.
If jurors convict McKnight of murder with special circumstances, there will be a separate penalty phase at which jurors will choose between recommending the death penalty or life in prison.
McKnight is already serving a 63-year term in state prison because he was convicted in August 1987 of 11 felony counts, including attempted murder, mayhem, kidnapping and forced oral copulation, for attacks on six prostitutes between 1984 and his arrest in January 1986.
After he began serving his prison sentence, authorities used DNA evidence to connect McKnight to additional crimes.
His current trial stems from his indictment on June 24, 1999, that he murdered five women between September and December of 1985.
McKnight's alleged victims were Diane Stone, 17, Talita Dixon, 13, Monique Franchone Davis, 18, Beverly Ann Bryant, 24, and Betty Lynn Stuart, 22.
All were sexually assaulted before they were killed, Meehan said.
He said they all were viciously stabbed or beaten with blunt objects such as a tire iron.
The incidents took place in secluded locations in Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Richmond.
The crimes caused outrage and panic in the East Bay at the time, and a task force of police officers from Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Emeryville and the East Bay Regional Park District was formed to investigate.
McKnight's attorneys, Alex Selvin and Michael Berger, will give their closing arguments later today.
In his opening statement in McKnight's trial in July, Selvin said, “This case is quite complex” because of the number of charges against McKnight and all of the DNA evidence in the case.
Selvin said there will also be issues with the reliability of testimony by the witnesses because the alleged crimes occurred more than 20 years ago.
McKnight testified in his own defense last week and denied ever meeting any of the five women he's accused of murdering.
Bay City News