RICHMOND -- The man charged with the killing last month of a retired schoolteacher at her Hercules home during a crime spree appeared in a Richmond courtroom Thursday morning.
Darnell Keith Washington, 24, is accused along with his wife Tania LeJune Washington, 25, of nine felony counts, including the murder of 55-year-old Susie Ko while committing robbery, burglary and a carjacking -- special circumstances that could make the pair eligible for the death penalty. His plea hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 16.
Tania Washington is awaiting extradition from Washington state, where the couple was nabbed after a high-speed chase.
"We expect that (Tania Washington) will be in local custody in a short amount of time," deputy district attorney Molly Manoukian said outside the courtroom Thursday.
Ko's death and the couple's arrest earlier this month capped a monthlong crime spree that was set off when Tania Washington on Aug. 28 helped spring her husband from San Bernardino County Jail, where he was awaiting trial on robbery charges, according to authorities.
Darnell Washington allegedly hopped a 10-foot fence at the jail. After he shot and wounded a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy Sept. 2 to avoid apprehension, the couple traveled north.
Prosecutors allege that the Washingtons were driving a stolen pickup Oct. 5 when two employees at a Kmart store in Pinole tried to stop them from shoplifting a hacksaw.
The stolen pickup truck was later found near the Hercules home in which Ko and her family lived.
Ko, a mother of four, was found stabbed to death that day in the home she shared with her husband. The family had lived in the home for more than 30 years. It was the first homicide in Hercules since 2010. The crime appears to be random.
"We are not aware of any connection between the victim and the suspects," Manoukian said.
The charges allege that Darnell Washington fatally stabbed Ko after confronting her with a knife and a shotgun.
The pair were nabbed days later after leading police on a high-speed chase in SeaTac, Wash., while driving Ko's 2011 Subaru Outback.
Darnell Washington is being tried as a "third-strike" defendant," because of previous felony convictions in Los Angeles County Superior Court for robbery and carjacking.
Manoukian said a trial could take months, adding that the Washingtons may be tried together or separately.
Manoukian said the District Attorney's Office had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison.