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72 year old Berkeley woman stabbed to death in racial hate crime


A 72-year-old gardener and improvisational artist died early Wednesday after being stabbed during a carjacking attempt last month in Berkeley, and a jailed suspect now faces murder charges, authorities said.

Nancy Jo McClellan, who was attacked while leaving a wedding, was removed from life support at a Berkeley care facility, a day after being transferred there from Highland Hospital in Oakland.

Kamau Berlin, 18, who was arrested shortly after the attack, had been held on suspicion of attempted murder and attempted carjacking. He is now expected to face a murder charge.

About 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 19, officers responded to reports of a woman screaming “Help me!” at Russell and Otis streets near the Berkeley Zen Center, where McClellan had served as head gardener until recently. She had just left the center after attending a wedding and was returning to her car.

A witness looked out her window and saw a man “making punching motions” into the rear passenger area of a parked Honda, Berkeley police Sgt. Peter Hong wrote in an affidavit filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

A second witness saw McClellan unconscious on the ground and Berlin in the driver’s seat, trying to get the vehicle to start, Hong wrote.

McClellan regained consciousness and asked for help, prompting Berlin to pick her up and put her in the back seat, police said. Berlin told the witness he was just trying to help, but McClellan said, “He’s not helping me,” and continued asking for assistance, Hong wrote.

Officers arrived and caught Berlin after a foot chase, police said. He had blood stains on his face, shirt and pants, Hong wrote, and made incriminating admissions during subsequent phone calls from jail.