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DA Charges Suspect with Murder of UC Student

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 08, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM

The District Attorney’s office charged Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, with murder in the stabbing death of UC Berkeley engineering student Chris Wootton Tues-day afternoon. 

Hoeft-Edenfield was arrested and booked at the Berkeley City Jail on one count of murder within 12 hours of the Saturday morning incident. 

Dressed in yellow jail clothes and sporting a crew-cut, Hoeft-Edenfield appeared in Alameda County Superior Court briefly on Tuesday and will return to court today (Thursday) to be assigned an attorney and possibly enter a plea. 

“We got the news at 2 p.m. that the DA’s office had reviewed his case and has decided to charge him with murder,” Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet.  

Wootton was stabbed once in the upper left portion of his chest, between his ribs, in front of a group of students in the rear parking lot of the Chi Omega sorority house on Piedmont Avenue. 

When Berkeley police officers arrived at the scene after receiving a 911 call about a young man brandishing a knife around 2:45 a.m., they were directed to the Sigma Pi residence on Warring Street, where they found about 20 students standing around Wootton, who was bleeding. He died on the way to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. 

Kusmiss said Wootton’s condition had been extremely critical and that he had no pulse when paramedics arrived at the scene. 

Calls to Hoeft-Edenfield’s mother Ellen, who lives with him in Berkeley, were not returned.  

She told reporters outside court, “We do feel this case is a tragedy. We do grieve for the Wootton family and I’m so sorry.” 

San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, who accompanied Hoeft-Edenfield’s mother and said she’s a family friend, told reporters Hoeft-Edenfield “is not someone who glorifies violence or tries to lord it over someone.” 

Young said Hoeft-Edenfield “is a decent, sweet kid who was pulling his life together and had a girlfriend and was saving his money for college,” and added, “I’ve known Andrew since he was six years old and he hasn’t been in trouble before and this is a shock.” 

Young, who said her son grew up with Hoeft-Edenfield in Oakland and Berkeley, said Hoeft-Edenfield “was goofy and liked to be the class clown and was fun-loving and respectful.” 

A transfer student from Alameda, Hoeft-Edenfield graduated from Berkeley High School in 2006. Berkeley Unified School District officials were unable to provide any information about him. 

A Jan. 17, 2006, story in the Planet quotes Hoeft-Edenfield as supporting Berkeley High’s on-site suspension plan, in which students were to serve suspensions at school rather than being sent home. He told the Planet at the time that that he had not gotten into any fights since his transfer to the school. 

Berkeley Unified volunteer Yolanda Huang, who wrote the story, said she didn’t want to comment on Hoeft-Edenfield. 

“I don’t think Andrew should talk to the press either,” she said. “His lawyer will do all the talking.” 

Several people have suggested that Wootton may have been trying to break up the fight when he got stabbed. 

Police reports indicate that a verbal exchange between local students and some other people escalated into a physical fight that ultimately led to the stabbing. The report did not rule out the role of alcohol in the fight. 

Eyewitness testimony, local authorities said, played an important role in finding and arresting Hoeft-Edenfield. 

Kusmiss said three UC Berkeley students—one girl and two boys—came forward with statements, which included a first name and a physical description that helped officers to create a photo line-up. 

Officers were able to track him down at a friend’s house in Oakland, where he was staying overnight. 

According to Kusmiss, Hoeft-Edenfield volunteered to come down to the police department and provided details of the incident—including his involvement in the crime—to the police after the arrest. 

“During the course of the conversation he gradually became more comfortable and confessed that he was the young man who had the knife,” she said. 

Kusmiss said a verbal exchange between the suspect and a friend and some other guys—reportedly fraternity brothers—about pride and some form of disrespect had quickly evolved into a full-scale physical fight involving 20 young men, during which Hoeft-Edenfield, who still had the knife, stabbed Wootton. 

“During the interview he told detectives that he felt the knife connect with something but didn’t know he had stabbed someone until he was fleeing the area and saw there was blood on his hand and knife,” Kusmiss said. “The detectives eventually told him that Wootton had died from the stab.” 

The suspect is alleged to have fled westbound on Channing Way. Officers discovered a bloody folding, buck-style knife on a sidewalk on Piedmont Avenue on Saturday morning during their investigations, according to Kusmiss. 


Bay City News contributed to this story.