Suspect in Treasure Island homicide makes initial court appearance

Danilo Baraza (Courtesy photo)

A homicide suspect, accused of killing a 20-year-old man whose body was found badly burned on San Francisco’s Treasure Island earlier this month, made his first court appearance Tuesday.

Danilo Barraza, 21, has been charged with murder in connection with the death of Amir Alkhraisat, a San Francisco native and former Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory student.

Alkhraisat’s body was found on Jan. 18 on the island, in a desolate bunker, more than a week after his family reported him missing. His body was “burned beyond recognition,” prosecutors said.

During his Tuesday arraignment, Barraza did not enter a plea and the matter was put over for Wednesday afternoon. Barraza remains jailed without bail and, if convicted, he could face a maximum of 50 years in prison.

According to court documents, Alkhraisat’s family reported him missing on Jan. 9, telling police they hadn’t seen him in two days.

During the investigation into his disappearance, investigators learned Alkhraisat was last seen on Jan. 8 with Barraza in the 800 block of Hampshire Street, in the city’s Mission District, court documents said. When officers spoke to Barraza, he admitted to being with Alkhraisat on Jan. 8 and said they both had left a friend’s house that day on Hampshire Street and then headed to an Oakland restaurant in a black Mazda, which Barraza had rented via a mobile phone app.

Barraza said afterward, while he was driving the Mazda, Alkhraisat received a phone call that appeared to upset him and Alkhraisat asked Barraza to drop him off near Ninth and Bryant streets. After dropping him off, Barraza said he then drove to a restaurant on Pier 30 alone, according to court documents.

When investigators reviewed the victim’s phone records, they learned Alkhraisat did not receive a phone call around the time Barraza claimed he did. The records also apparently showed the phone had been turned off since the afternoon of Jan. 8.

When investigators contacted the rental car’s owner, they confirmed Barraza rented the Mazda on Jan. 7 and returned it on Jan. 9. They also learned Barraza had replaced the vehicle’s rear passenger window before returning it. During a search of the vehicle’s interior, investigators saw what appeared to be dried blood on the front passenger seat. San Francisco police crime scene investigators were then able to confirm the substance was indeed blood.

Then on Jan. 18, officers learned of burned human remains found in a bunker on Treasure Island. At the scene, they discovered the body had been placed in a blue container and set on fire. The body was later identified as Alkhraisat.

On his body, officers found a gold watch, a ring and a necklace, all similar to items Alkhraisat was last seen wearing. Additionally, at the scene, investigators found a bullet underneath Alkhraisat’s head.

Using surveillance footage from multiple sources, officers confirmed Barraza and Alkhraisat did in fact leave the 800 block of Hampshire Street together on Jan. 8, and headed east on the Bay Bridge. The vehicle then exited at the Treasure Island exit.

Once on the island, video footage showed the Mazda headed north on Clipper Cove Way toward the crime scene, court documents said. About 30 minutes later, the Mazda traveled away from the crime scene before stopping at a convenience store on Avenue of the Palms. During this time, the rear passenger window appeared to be broken.

After buying paper towels and Windex at the store, Barraza can then be seen going into and out of the passenger side for about 11 minutes. Afterward, Barraza, who appears to now be the sole occupant of the Mazda, drives back onto the Bay Bridge and heads back to San Francisco, according to court documents.

On Jan. 23, officers monitoring Barraza noticed him leave his house with two bags and head to San Francisco International Airport. Once at the airport’s international terminal, officers arrested him.

While in custody, Barraza allegedly told officers his home had been burglarized repeatedly, with his guns having been stolen. He said he believed someone close to him was responsible.

While Barraza maintained that he dropped Alkhraisat at Ninth and Bryant streets, he apparently admitted to police he did drive to Treasure Island on Jan. 8 and apparently said he had bought paper towels and Windex that night to clean up bird feces from his windshield. He also said he replaced the rear passenger window of the Mazda and had cleaned up ketchup from inside the vehicle, court documents said.

Although investigators were able to obtain the Mazda’s GPS tracking, which confirmed the Mazda’s movements as seen on surveillance videos, Barraza maintained he did not kill Alkhraisat, according to court documents.

Daniel Montes, Bay City News

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