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Driver in College Ave. Slaying Makes Bail By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday July 29, 2005

Christopher Wilson, the 20-year-old Berkeley High graduate police say drove the getaway car in the Meleia Willis-Starbuck shooting, was scheduled to be released Thursday on a $326,000 property bond in to the custody of family friends. 

The parents of Wilson’s best friend, Robin Baker and Ralph Silber, put up their Berkeley house to get Wilson out of jail. 

“He’s like my other son,” Baker said after the bail hearing. “I have every confidence in him. I know he’s not capable of hurting another person.”  

Wilson, who was a close friend of Willis-Starbuck, has been charged with murder. He is scheduled to return to court Sept. 13 to enter a plea. 

Wilson has no prior criminal record, a fact that Judge Winfred Scott said weighed heavily in her decision to grant bail. 

Scott required that Wilson adhere to a 9 p.m. curfew and surrender any cell phone or electronic communication devices. She also ordered him to stay away from a list of his friends provided by prosecutors, stay in Alameda County and to remain under the supervision of Baker and Silber. 

When asked if he understood the restrictions, Wilson, dressed in a red prison jumper replied, “Yes ma’am.” 

Baker, the director of UC Berkeley’s Labor Occupational Health Program, said her son has been friends with Wilson since elementary school. Silber is CEO of the Alameda County Health Care Network. 

Judge Scott did not explain why Wilson was released into the custody of Wilson and Baker rather than to his family. When asked about the arrangement, a spokesperson for Wilson’s attorney, Elizabeth Grossman, said Wilson had a long-standing relationship with the couple and that they were, “in essence family.” 

Prosecutor Carrie Panetta had proposed setting bail at $500,000. 

During the hearing, prosecutors acknowledged that there was a third person in the car at the time of Willis-Starbuck’s murder who had since left the country. 

Wilson’s supporters packed the 60-seat courtroom. Former classmates declined to comment on the case after the bail hearing. Inside the courtroom one friend blurted out, “It’s a start,” after Judge Scott granted bail. 

Christopher Hollis, the man police believe shot Willis-Starbuck, remains at large.  

Berkeley police said last week that Wilson drove Hollis and the other passenger to the corner of Dwight Way and College Avenue where Hollis allegedly got out of the car and fired into a crowd of people, striking only Willis-Starbuck, a 19-year-old Dartmouth College student, who had returned to Berkeley for a summer internship. 

It is believed that Willis-Starbuck called Hollis to the scene after she and several friends got into an argument with a group of men.