Court Date Set for UC Murder Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM

Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, the Berkeley City College student charged with murdering UC Berkeley engineering student Chris Wootton, did not enter a plea last week when he appeared at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. 

The attorney representing him at the May 8 court appearance suggested his client may be innocent. 

Conflicting statements about what happened on the night of May 3, when 21-year-old Wootton was stabbed outside the Chi Omega sorority house, might prove that Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, did not commit a crime, Deputy Public Defender Tony Cheng, who was assigned to Hoeft-Edenfield, said. 

Court records indicate that Hoeft-Edenfield’s next court date to enter a plea is June 12. 

Cheng did not elaborate on whether Hoeft-Edenfield would be entering a self-defense plea, but said he was reviewing “conflicting statements” about what had taken place that evening. 

“I cannot comment on the facts of the case,” Cheng told the Planet in a telephone message Friday. 

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

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 house 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.  

Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said Wootton’s condition was extremely critical and that he had no pulse when paramedics arrived at the scene.  

Wootton’s family and friends have suggested that Wootton may have been trying to break up a fight when he got stabbed. 

Police reports indicate that a verbal exchange between students and others escalated into a physical fight that ultimately led to the stabbing.  

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 create a photo line-up and eventually track him down to a friend’s house in Oakland. 

Hoeft-Edenfield allegedly volunteered to go to the police station and provide details of the incident, including his involvement in the crime, to police officers 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,” Kusmiss said. “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.” 

Officers discovered a bloody folding, buck-style knife on a sidewalk on Piedmont Avenue on Saturday morning during their investigations, according to Kusmiss.  

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.