Hollis Faces New Charge in Willis-Starbuck Murder

Bay City News
Friday September 07, 2007

Christopher Hollis smiled and laughed in court today as prosecutors added another charge in a case in which he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in state prison on charges that he murdered his close friend Meleia Willis-Starbuck in Berkeley two years ago.  

Hollis, a 23-year-old Hayward man, pleaded not guilty to the new charge against him, which is that he was an ex-felon in possession of a firearm July 17, 2005, when he allegedly fired a shot that took the life of Willis-Starbuck, a 19-year-old Dartmouth College student who attended Berkeley High School with him.  

The incident took place near her apartment at the intersection of College Avenue and Dwight Way, not far from the UC Berkeley campus.  

Prosecutor Elgin Lowe said Hollis wasn’t supposed to be carrying any weapons as part of the terms of his parole from his 2002 felony conviction for possessing marijuana for sale in Merced County.  

Hollis has been awaiting trial since Feb. 10, 2006, when a judge ruled that there was enough evidence for him to stand trial on charges that he murdered Willis-Starbuck.  

His trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 15, but Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay today postponed it until Jan. 28 at the request of Hollis’ lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Greg Syren, who said he needs more time to prepare for the trial even though he’s represented Hollis for a year.  

Hollis smiled and waved at two women friends when he was brought into the courtroom and pulled up the sleeves of his yellow jail uniform to show them a lengthy scar on his left arm.  

Prosecutors initially charged both Hollis and Christopher Wilson, a 22-year-old Berkeley man who attended Berkeley High with Hollis and Willis-Starbuck, with murder for the shooting death of Willis-Starbuck as well as assault with a firearm in connection with a minor injury to UC Berkeley football player Gary Doxy, who was grazed on his right wrist.  

But a judge dismissed the murder and assault charges against Wilson after he identified Hollis as the shooter in the incident and pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of being an accessory to murder after the fact for driving Hollis from the scene. Wilson is expected to be sentenced after he testifies at Hollis’ trial.  

Prosecutors say that Hollis fired shots near Willis-Starbuck’s apartment building after she called him for help with an argument she and her female friends were having with some Cal football players.  

According to Wilson, Hollis and Willis-Starbuck were such close friends that they called each other “brother” and “sister.”  

At a preliminary hearing last year, Wilson testified that he and Hollis were at a party near the UC-Berkeley campus July 17, 2005, when Willis-Starbuck phoned Hollis to ask for help because she’d been in an argument with some men.  

Wilson said he heard four or five shots after Hollis jumped from his car when they pulled into a parking lot near Willis-Starbuck’s apartment and jogged in a crouched position to the intersection of College and Dwight.