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Slaying victim Shelby Barnes, Benicia High School graduation photo from yearbook. (Courtesy photo)

MARTINEZ -- A 21-year-old Concord woman was brutally killed in October as part of an ill-conceived plot to claim ownership of her home, according to testimony Friday at a preliminary hearing for three people charged with murder.

Concord resident Donald Waldecker, 23, told police that he killed Benicia native Shelby Barnes because he wanted to steal the deed to her Glenside Court house and claim it as his own, a Concord police detective testified. Waldecker was among several young people whom Barnes allowed to live with her while she waited to get kicked out of the four-bedroom property that had been owned by her father before it was foreclosed and seized by a bank.

Barnes had only known Waldecker for a few weeks, following his release from jail.

Waldecker first offered to trade Barnes the house deed for an ounce of methamphetamines, but she refused, Concord police Detective David Ishikawa testified. They were arguing about her not giving him the deed when Waldecker allegedly hit her and she dropped to the floor.

Waldecker told detectives that his co-defendants Randi Dees -- Waldecker's pregnant fiance at the time -- and Johnathan Harriel handed him pieces of duct tape that he used to seal Barnes' mouth and bind her hands and legs, Ishikawa testified. Dees, a 20-year-old Richmond resident, and Harriel, a 17-year-old Concord resident charged as an adult, each are charged with Barnes' murder under an aider and abettor theory.


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Waldecker told police that Harriel helped him carry Barnes to a basement door, and he then kicked her down a flight of stairs. In the basement, Waldecker said he busted Barnes' head open with a wooden table leg and slit her throat before watching her take her last breath, according to Ishikawa.

"(Dees) and John were in the back house while he was killing Shelby. He said they knew what was happening, but they weren't participating in the killing in the basement," Ishikawa said.

Waldecker allegedly told the detective that he never found the deed, and he was about to go to Kansas when he was arrested at Barnes' home Oct. 25, the day after the killing.

"He said, quote, '(the deed) wasn't in the house. If it was in the house, the house would have been mine,' " Ishikawa said.

An 18-year-old woman testified that Waldecker and Dees told her and her ex-boyfriend about their plan to kill Barnes. Waldecker said that he was going to use his skills from welding school to make a metal box in which he'd place Barnes' body, fill the box with acid and then bury it in the backyard, the woman testified.

"I informed him that (Barnes) didn't own the house, the bank owned the house, so there was no deed to be signed (over to Waldecker)," the witness said.

She said she and her former boyfriend were scared of Waldecker, a gang leader who chased them with weapons a day before the conversation.

Preliminary hearing testimony continues Tuesday, at which time a judge is expected to rule whether there is enough evidence to order the defendants to trial.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.