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Fresno Police Chase Down Suspect in BHS Grad Murder By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday September 27, 2005

The suspected shooter in the July 17 killing of Meleia Willis-Starbuck was captured in a Fresno apartment Friday as he hid in a bedroom closet. 

Lt. Randy Dobbins of the Fresno Police Department said the Friday arrest came 12 hours after Hollis, the boyfriend of the slain Berkeley High School graduate, was first detained following a traffic stop the night before. 

He is scheduled for arraignment this afternoon (Tuesday) at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse at 616 Washington St., Oakland, said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

Hollis, 21, was the second suspect arrested in connection with the shooting. Christopher Wilson, 20, who police say drove Hollis to the scene of the shooting, surrendered to police shortly after the incident and is scheduled to enter a plea before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winfred Scott on Oct. 3. 

Hollis was first taken into custody by the Fresno Police at 11 p.m. Thursday after traffic officers stopped a car for running a stop sign at the corner of Winery and Lane streets in Fresno. Neither the driver nor her passenger was carrying identification, Dobbins said. 

The woman behind the wheel, Easter Curry, provided a name and driver’s license number that belonged to her sister, and the passenger identified himself as Brandon Davis, giving a birth date of July 27, 1982. 

“Because they provided false information and they seemed really nervous, they were arrested and brought to police headquarters for processing,” said Dobbins. 

Because the department’s computer system was backlogged at the time and there was no indication they were wanted locally, the pair was returned to Curry’s apartment and released, Dobbins said. 

The computer returned “hits” on both suspects, identifying them and turning up the homicide warrant on Hollis and the fact that Curry was currently on felony probation from nearby Madera County, Dobbins said. 

Officers returned to Curry’s apartment at 11:30 a.m. Friday after receiving an anonymous phone tip that Hollis had returned. 

As they were driving up to the building, officers spotted Hollis walking across the street. As they gave chase, Hollis fled into the Winery apartment complex, a maze of buildings that covers a square mile. 

“They lost him, and then went back to the girlfriend’s apartment, where Curry was arrested after erasing Hollis’s name from her cell phone,” Dobbins said. 

Investigators discovered that she had recently made a call from the telephone in the apartment, and a quick check matched the number to an address in the apartment complex. 

Officers went to the apartment, where they were granted permission to search by the tenants—who were then evacuated. Moments later, officers found Hollis. “He was cowering down in the back of a bedroom closet and was taken into custody without incident,” said Dobbins. 

Okies said Berkeley Police officers arrived the next day to return him the city. 

Curry was booked into Fresno County jail on suspicion of harboring a fugitive and for violating her probation, Dobbins said. 


Fatal shooting 

Willis-Starbuck, 19, graduated from Berkeley High School in 2003, and was about to enter her junior year at Dartmouth College when she was shot and killed outside her apartment near the corner of Dwight Way and College Avenue following an encounter with five young men, witnesses said. 

She had stopped by her apartment with a group of friends when five men approached and an argument ensured. According to Berkeley Police spokesperson Okies, one of the witnesses said that Willis-Starbuck called Hollis to come to the scene and “bring the heat.” 

Shortly afterward, at about 1:45 a.m., while her friends were climbing into a car, someone fired a pistol from nearly a block away, fatally injuring her. The gunman then fled in a car eastbound on Dwight Way. 

Fire Department paramedics arrived on the scene within five minutes of the 911 call. 

Willis-Starbuck had been attending Dartmouth on a full scholarship, and her death shocked both the Berkeley community, where she was well-known for her volunteer efforts, and her teachers and fellow students at Dartmouth, where she had been elected president of the Black Student Union in her sophomore year. 

She had returned to Berkeley to work as a summer intern at the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center, which provides services to homeless women. 

Willis-Starbuck’s mother, Kimberly, worked for many years in the Berkeley City Manager’s office, and the family had moved to Georgia last year.