MARTINEZ -- Benjamin Merrill was a sociable 22-year-old single man, so after being stood up on a first date and drinking with friends one Saturday night in San Francisco, he accepted an invitation to hang out with two women he had just met.
But instead of taking Merrill to "party" as promised, the girlfriends picked up a friend and brought Merrill to Pittsburg's Marina Walk Park, where they robbed him and shot him dead, prosecutor John Cope told jurors Thursday at the trial of the alleged shooter, Kiarra Price.
Price, 24, is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder and robbery charges in the Nov. 3, 2009, slaying of Merrill, a Seattle-area native who was living in San Francisco with friends and working as a server at the popular Buena Vista Cafe at Fisherman's Wharf.
Price's girlfriend, Tearney Brown, 24, is awaiting trial in the case. Their friend, Kendra Fells, 25, is serving a 15-year sentence under a plea deal that requires her to testify for the prosecution.
Brown and Price drove to Fells' house to fetch her gun and had her join them before taking an unsuspecting Merrill to the marina park. After Merrill exited the car to relieve himself, all three women followed him and robbed him at gunpoint of his iPhone and wallet, Cope said.
Brown and Fells were walking back to the car when Price shot Merrill for some unknown reason, Cope said. Maybe Merrill made a move to recover his property, or maybe shooting him was Price's plan all along, the prosecutor said.
"Why are you mad at me? I only did what I had to do," Price texted Fells after the killing, according to Cope.
Pittsburg police cracked the case a couple weeks later by tracing Merrill's iPhone to Price at a Concord mall.
Deputy public defender Tracee Clark told jurors that she will be asking for an acquittal. She pointed out that the fatal shot came from Fells' gun, which Fells disposed of after the shooting.
The trial continues Friday.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.