OAKLAND -- Diantay Powell, 18, pleaded not guilty to killing two teenage girls during an adolescent lovers' quarrel last year, but two close friends and one acquaintance all said he did it, evidence presented during a preliminary hearing revealed.
Based largely on that evidence, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson ruled that there was enough reason to believe Powell committed the crimes and should be sent before a jury for trial.
Rolefson also ruled that Powell's friend, Antonio Edwards, 20, should be sent before a jury on a charge of being an accessory to a felony. Testimony presented during the preliminary hearing revealed that Edwards drove Powell from the scene in East Oakland after the killings.
Rolefson's ruling came after a day and a half of testimony during which a 16-year-old boy reluctantly confirmed statements he made to police describing the Nov. 25 killings of best friends Raquel Gerstel, 15, and Bobbie Sartain, 16.
It also came after an acquaintance of Edwards, Albert Rich, said that Powell described the killings to him a day after they occurred.
Powell is charged with a double murder and using a gun causing death, crimes that allow District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to seek the death penalty. If the death penalty is not sought, which is most likely the case, Powell will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Evidence presented during the preliminary hearing revealed that the two girls were killed after a fight broke out between Sartain and Powell that was sparked by Powell announcing that another female was coming to meet the group.
The group, which included Edwards, Gerstel and the 16-year-old boy who testified, were hanging out in a rental car on Minna Avenue near Brookdale Park between 3:20 and 6 a.m.
The two girls, who grew up together in Alameda and considered each other best friends, had met up with Powell and Edwards just after 3 a.m. at a gas station near the corner of High Street and MacArthur Boulevard, close to where Sartain's uncle lived. It was a meeting that was captured on video surveillance.
It remains unclear what the group did while in the car but one witness said Powell and Edwards told him the group was taking drugs and having sex.
The shootings began after Sartain slapped Powell and Gerstel came to her friend's defense when Powell slapped Sartain back, a witness said. As Gerstel approached Powell, the witness said, Powell pulled out a gun and shot Gerstel in the head.
At that point, Sartain ran from the scene pleading with Powell not to shoot and promising not to tell anyone what happened, testimony revealed. Powell, however, kept shooting even after Sartain fell to the ground, the 16-year-old witness said.
At least 23 bullet casings were recovered from the crime scene, Officer Brad Baker testified.
Though Edwards only faces three years in prison for being an accessory to murder, he faces decades in prison for two unrelated crimes in which he is accused of robbery and sexual assault.