Prosecutors: Oakland man killed girlfriend to cover killing of her son

Berkeley police say they believe Curtis Martin III shot and then bludgeoned to death an Oakland woman because she knew he was responsible for the death of her 17-month-old son.

In a probable cause statement filed in court Tuesday, investigators said Martin, a 38-year-old Oakland man, and 23-year-old Zoelina Toney were involved in a dating relationship for three months prior to the death of Toney, whose body was found in Aquatic Park, along the shoreline east of Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley, about 4 a.m. Friday.

After Toney was identified via her fingerprints, investigators found out that she had a son, Jashon Williams, and it had been more than three
weeks since anyone had seen him, according to the statement.

Investigators believe that a child's body that was found near the Berkeley Marina on Sunday, about a mile away from the spot where Toney's body was found, is that of Jashon based on his race, size and age, the statement says.

However, Berkeley police spokesman Lt. Andrew Greenwood said the Alameda County coroner's bureau is still continuing its work in officially confirming the child's identity.

Nonetheless, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday charged Martin with murdering both Toney and Jashon because it believes there is sufficient evidence to support both charges.

Prosecutors also charged Martin with two special circumstance clauses that could result in him facing the death penalty: committing
multiple murders and murdering Toney because she was a witness to the murder of her son.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Rogers said Toney wasn't necessarily an eyewitness to her son's murder but authorities believe Martin
killed her because she had information that implicated Martin in his death.

For the purpose of potentially increasing the sentence for Martin if he's convicted, prosecutors also charged Martin with enhancements for
having two prior felony convictions: a 1994 voluntary manslaughter conviction for the death of the 3-year-old son of his girlfriend at the time and a 1992 conviction for possession of an assault weapon.

Toney's family members packed the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert McGuiness for a short arraignment hearing for Martin.

McGuiness referred Martin to the Public Defender's Office to see if it will represent him and ordered him to return to court on Thursday to be assigned an attorney and enter a plea. He is being held at the Alameda County Jail in Pleasanton without bail.

After the hearing, Toney's aunt, Elowis Windeman, said of Jashon, “That was my baby. We called him Pretty Boy Floyd because he had the prettiest eyes in the world.”

According to the probable cause statement, when Toney's family members and friends asked her where Jashon was she said he was with “Curt,” which was an abbreviated nickname used by Martin.

The statement says an autopsy conducted by the coroner's bureau concluded that Toney died as a result of massive blunt force trauma to her head, and gunshot wounds to her abdomen and a possible gunshot wound to the back of her head were contributing factors.

However, coroner's officials haven't been able to determine the cause of death of the child found at the Berkeley Marina because it was in a
state of “advanced decomposition,” according to the statement.

The statement says only 10 minutes before Toney's body was found, a Berkeley police officer on routine parole in Aquatic Park came upon Martin, who was wearing rubber gloves and protective booties over his shoes, possibly to avoid leaving his DNA.

Martin was released from the scene because authorities hadn't yet spotted Toney's body but he was arrested at his home in Oakland later on Friday.

The statement says when Berkeley police investigators tried to ask Martin about the whereabouts of Jashon he repeatedly replied that it wasn't his problem.

Martin was charged with murder for the Feb. 11, 1994, death of 3-year-old Devin Brewer, who was the son of his girlfriend.

The probable cause statement says the cause of the boy's death was listed as blunt force trauma to the head and his mother reported that he had suffered several burns and blunt force injuries in the weeks prior to his death.

However, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office agreed to a plea deal that called for Martin to plead no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and be sentenced to 11 years in state prison.

When he sentenced Martin on Jan. 9, 1995, Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman expressed frustration at the plea agreement and the light sentence but said he was powerless to change it.

“The laws of this state have somehow tragically ignored for the perpetrators of the most hideous crime, the killing of our most precious
gift, our children,” Goodman said.

The judge said of Devin, “Curtis Martin beat the life out of him.”

Goodman said, “An atrocious mistake has been made in our legal system when a murderer of a child gets a mere slap on the wrist.”

He said to Martin, “Why did you do this? Why did you hit Devin? You are the most vile human being. You are a baby killer. How do you sleep?”

Martin was paroled from state prison on Sept. 7, 2000, after serving only about six years.

However, he had to return to state prison for three short stints for violating the terms of his parole.

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