On Saturday evening, Carrel Grayson was warming up the oven to cook fish sticks. He had been drinking beer all day, police said, and the 51-year-old transient was fixing a hot meal at a home where he often sought refuge from the bitter cold.
It did not seem to matter to him, police said, that the kitchen floor was covered with his aunt's blood; her body had already been dragged to a spare bedroom.
The night before, she had refused to let him in the house. Police said that led him to savagely beat her and then stab her repeatedly in the back with an ice pick, after which he cleaned the weapon and put it back in a kitchen drawer.
He did not set out to kill her, Grayson told officers. According to police, he said he wanted to knock her out so he could stay inside; but he could not kick her unconscious, and she fought off his attempt to strangle her by biting his finger. So he fetched the ice pick, police said.
The important thing, Grayson told investigators, was that he was out of the cold.
Grayson told investigators that he wanted to sleep in the house rather than a neighbor's garage. His aunt refused to let him in, so he cut the front screen door and was unlocking it when she began to open it. Police said he rushed the door, knocking her to the floor.
"He had a pretty clear understanding that what he did was wrong," said Antioch police Lt. Leonard Orman. "He was just angry. He admitted it was a very selfish act."
Grayson is in County Jail in Martinez on suspicion of killing 87-year-old Amberene Elizabeth Grayson, a paternal aunt who sometimes took him in for a meal. Earlier this year, she had cut him off, fed up with his drunken tirades and attempts to break into her home, police said.
Police found Amberene Grayson about 6:30 p.m. Saturday at her home in the 1500 block of G Street. Officers arrested Carrel Grayson in the kitchen. He was booked on suspicion of murder, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held on $1.08 million bail.
An autopsy showed that Amberene Grayson was stabbed 59 times and had severe head wounds. The slaying was the city's seventh this year, compared with 10 last year.
Police said Grayson had several times come to the house drunk and tried to break in. Officers arrested him on suspicion of burglary Nov. 30, when they said he broke a window trying to get in. Six days earlier, he was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication in front of the home. He also had a petty theft charge Aug. 27.
For a while, Amberene Grayson kept giving him chances. She seemed to be the last one willing — Orman said investigators had trouble tracking down relatives after her death because they had moved numerous times to avoid Carrel Grayson.