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Jailhouse Murder Suspect Attacked Other Cellmates

Tuesday May 20, 2003

The accused murderer of a jailed Berkeley man had attacked two of his previous cellmates in recent weeks, according to a newly released Alameda County Sheriff’s report. 

Ryan Lee Raper, 20, was arraigned last Friday on charges of murdering Kevin Lee Freeman, a longtime Berkeley transient, in Santa Rita jail. The murder has raised questions about Santa Rita Jail’s inmate classification and housing policy. Freeman, who at the time of his death was serving a 30-day sentence for public drunkenness, was a homeless alcoholic who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. According to court records he had no history of violent behavior. 

At the arraignment, Pleasanton Superior Court Judge Hugh Walker ordered the release of the report. Raper, who is being held without bail, is expected to enter a plea on Wednesday. 

According to the sheriff’s report, Raper, who was jailed on March 2, had attacked two previous cellmates before the fatal attack on Freeman, who was 55. In one of those attacks, he is suspected of pulling his cellmate out of his bunk in the middle of the night and threatening to break his leg. Neither of the victims pressed charges. Raper, who was arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, was also caught stockpiling his medication.  

Raper is accused of killing Freeman in their two-man jail cell early on Friday May 9, a day after the two were assigned to the same cell. According to the report, Raper called sheriff’s deputies on the cell’s intercom system around 3 a.m. and said, “It’s done.” The guard asked if there was an emergency in the cell and Raper repeated, “It’s done.”  

When deputies arrived at the cell they found Freeman wrapped in bedding and face down on the cell floor. Raper lay in the cell’s upper bunk with a blood-soaked bed sheet wrapped around his waist. His face, hands and legs were also covered with blood, according to the report.  

Freeman was pronounced dead in the cell after paramedics tried to revive him. The Alameda County Coroner later determined that Freeman died of a skull fracture and severe trauma to his upper torso.  

As Raper was being taken to an isolation holding area, he said, “Man, the dude jumped off the top bunk at me and we got into it,” according to the report.  

Freeman’s friends and homeless advocates said they remain baffled as to how Raper, who had a series of recent violent offenses, was assigned to the same cell as a man who was not known to be violent. 

Alameda County Sheriff’s Spokesman Lt. Jim Knudsen did not return calls from the Daily Planet on Monday regarding Santa Rita’s cell assignment policies.  

Contacted in Pennsylvania by telephone, Freeman’s brother, Terry Freeman, said he is following the case closely.  

“I’ve been in contact with the district attorney’s office and I’m planning a trip out there,” he said. “I’m going to make sure this case will not go away.” 

Terry Freeman said his brother moved to California around 1971. He was born in Indiana and the family later moved to Pennsylvania where Kevin Freeman attended Trinity High School and later LaSalle and Temple universities.  

“He was an extremely smart person. He was a championship swimmer, boy scout and an all-American kid,” Freeman said. He added that his brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early 20s. 

Deborah Tatto, who works for UC Berkeley at an office at 2481 Hearst St., said she started a street memorial on Friday in honor of Freeman. The memorial is located in front of a vacant store on Euclid Street near Hearst where Freeman would often hang out. She said Freeman has slept in the doorway of the building she works in for years.  

“He was very nice, never mean spirited or belligerent,” she said. “He never said anything to anybody, no asking anyone for anything, he’d put a cup out and that’s it.” 

Freeman is survived by two daughters, his mother and two brothers.