A judge ruled Thursday that there’s sufficient evidence to have a former Alameda County mental health worker stand trial on charges that she was an accessory to the brutal stabbing of a 75-year-old woman near the Berkeley Rose Garden last year.
Laurel Headley, the defense attorney for Hamaseh Kianfar, a 31-year-old San Rafael woman who resigned from her job shortly after the March 16, 2005, incident in the 1200 block of Euclid Avenue in Berkeley, told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson that she’s “incredulous” that charges were filed against Kianfar.
Headley admitted that Kianfar left the scene with a 16-year-old mentally troubled girl who later pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon for the incident and didn’t call police for 15 hours, but she said Kianfar was the person who gave the juvenile’s name to police and set in motion the chain of events that led to her arrest.
But prosecutor Carrie Panetta said that by driving the girl from the scene, Kianfar helped her avoid being arrested, which is a key element of being an accessory to a felony.
Panetta said Kianfar heard the victim call out for help and knew she was bleeding profusely but urged the girl to leave the scene.
She said Kianfar also took the juvenile to an Old Navy store so she would have clothing different than the clothing the juvenile wore at the time of the attack in an apparent bid to help the girl cover up the crime.
In addition, Panetta said Kianfar gave Berkeley police “a statement full of lies” aimed at minimizing her role in the crime and hiding the fact that she had spent considerable time with the juvenile outside of her normal working hours in an apparent violation of county rules.
Rolefson ordered Kianfar, who remains free on $15,000 bail, to return to court May 18 to be arraigned again and have a trial date set.
If she’s convicted, she would face a sentence of between 16 months and three years in state prison.
Although the juvenile, who initially was charged with attempted murder, pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon last Sept. 6, she still hasn’t been sentenced because the juvenile justice system has had a hard time finding a suitable place for her.
According to the juvenile’s attorney, Cliff Blakely, the girl, who is now 17, has a low IQ and faces other developmental issues.
The girl appeared in Juvenile Court briefly Thursday and is scheduled to return on May 10, when court officials hope to finally agree on a place for her. She’s being held in juvenile hall in San Leandro in the meantime.
According to court documents, Kianfar admitted to Berkeley police that she met the girl before the stabbing while working with the girl at juvenile hall when the girl had been housed there for a previous crime.
The stabbing victim, now 76, testified Thursday that she and her husband were walking to their home on Euclid Avenue after attending a film class at the UC Berkeley when two women approached then on the sidewalk adjacent to the Rose Garden.
The elderly woman said she didn’t pay any attention to the women but “I felt something on my neck as they came” and “my hand flew to my neck.”
She said, “I felt wetness and realized I’d been cut.”
The woman, who has asked that her name not be used, said she screamed for help several times and then lay down on the ground because she feared that she would lose consciousness due to all the blood she was losing.
But she said her husband and several helpful bystanders were able to summon help and she was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where she was treated and eventually recovered.
The victim and her husband both admitted that they couldn’t identify the two women who were involved in the incident, which occurred about 6:40 p.m. during twilight hours.
The husband testified that after the stabbing, both women “were moving away rapidly and looking back at me.”
He said it was “obvious” to him that the smaller of the two women, apparently referring to Kianfar, “was trying to get the larger lady (apparently the juvenile) out of there.””