The Alameda County district attorney charged Oakland resident Curtis Martin III Tuesday with murdering Zoelina Toney and her 17-month-old son Jashon Williams.
Toney, who is also known as Zoelina Williams, was found beaten and shot to death near the Aquatic Park entrance early Friday morning.
Martin was charged with two counts of murder, with special circumstances, said Lt. Andrew Greenwood of the Berkeley Police Department.
Berkeley police investigators now believe that the body of a child found in the San Francisco Bay off the Berkeley Marina Sunday morning is that of Jashon, Toney’s missing son. Greenwood said the “body is consistent in race, gender, and size to that of Jashon Williams.” The coroner’s office is still working to confirm his identity, he said.
Greenwood said that investigators believe Martin killed Toney, 23, “because because she had knowledge of the death of Jashon.”
“The nature of the ongoing investigation precludes our sharing further information regarding the time and manner of Jashon Williams’ death,” Greenwood said.
Toney’s family members packed the courtroom of Judge Robert McGuiness for Martin’s brief arraignment at Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
McGuiness referred Martin to the public defender’s office for representation and ordered him to return to court Thursday to be assigned an attorney and enter a plea. Martin is currently being held at the Alameda County Jail in Pleasanton without bail.
Prosecutors also charged Martin with two special circumstance clauses that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted: committing multiple murders and murdering Toney because she was a witness to the murder of her son.
Martin was also charged for enhancements because of two prior felony convictions—a 1994 manslaughter conviction and a 1992 conviction for possession of an assault weapon.
Authorities had spent 10 to 12 hours Saturday searching the waters near Aquatic Park for Jashon’s body, but to no avail.
But at 10:57 a.m. Sunday the Berkeleley Police Department got a 911 call that kayakers had found the body of a small child floating in the water.
Both Berkeley police and fire responded and officers from the Fire Department retrieved the body from the water.
Greenwood said that BPD asked Oakland police to investigate the case as a “as a matter of professional courtesy.”
Greenwood said the Alameda County coroner’s bureau took custody of the child’s body.
Members of the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, a volunteer dive team and search-and-rescue dogs, and aircraft from the California Highway Patrol and East Bay Regional Parks District assisted in the search.
Williams may have been with his mother when she was killed, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said.
Oakland police arrested Martin at Chestnut Street and 24th Avenue in Oakland a little after 1 p.m. Friday for his alleged involvement in the homicide, Berkeley’s fifth this year.
A patrol officer conducting a routine security check in the south end of the park shortly after 4 a.m. found the body of an adult female lying on the shoreline adjacent to the parking lot on Bolivar Drive north of Potter Street.
Martin, 38, was convicted in 1994 for fatally beating 3-year-old Devin Brewer of Oakland, the son of his then-girlfriend. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, of which he served only six. Police arrested Martin last year in a domestic violence case, but did not prosecute him. He has spent time in jail on robbery, burglary and weapons charges.
Police searched Martin’s home, as well as the home where Zoelina Toney and Jashon Williams were living in Oakland.
Martin has so far declined requests for interviews from reporters.
Toney’s relatives contacted Oakland police at 12:40 a.m. Saturday to let them know about the missing child, he said.
A Berkeley resident who works at the park and did not want to be identified said that the crime scene is at a place frequented by bikers, joggers and dog walkers during the day, but desolate at night. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., similar to other City of Berkeley parks.
“The woman was shot twice, they needed a place to dump the body and they dumped it there,” he said. “It’s not the first time a body has been dumped there. I think the last time it happened was eight years ago. A lot of people dumps things in the park because no one can see it, so you can do whatever you want there.”
Anyone with any information on this crime is urged to call the Berkeley Police Department’s Homicide Detail at 981-5741 (office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Bay City News contributed to this report.