Crime

On murdered Berkeley woman’s birthday, alleged killer ordered to face charges

Jennifer "Jessica" Kingeter would have been 28 on Jan. 15, 2014. Photo: Rebecca Tolman

Jennifer “Jessica” Kingeter would have been 28 on Jan. 15, 2014. Photo: Rebecca Tolman

A Berkeley man accused of a brutal stabbing in late 2012, which killed a local Laney College student and hairstylist, has been ordered to face the murder charges brought against him by the Alameda County district attorney’s office.

Jamaal Prince, 35, is charged with killing 26-year-old Jennifer “Jessica” Kingeter in East Oakland in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2012, just hours after they had met for the first time.

Kingeter would have turned 28 on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

According to testimony during Prince’s preliminary hearing, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday, a friend the two had in common — 24-year-old Julius Johnson — introduced Kingeter and Prince that night. All three ended up at an apartment that was being used by Prince. After Prince started acting “psycho,” pulling a knife on Johnson, threatening him and trying to stab him, Johnson fled, leaving a terrified Kingeter alone with the man who would later be charged with her murder.

Less than two hours later, authorities said, Prince was found outside that apartment. He was sitting on the ground, naked, and bleeding from his hands. He asked his neighbor for help and was mumbling incoherently. A 7- to 8-inch serrated bread knife, covered in blood and other matter, was recovered several feet away.

Inside the apartment’s bathroom, the young woman’s body was discovered by police. It was covered in slash marks and stabbing injuries, including a deep gash in her neck that had severed both major arteries. One of her hands had been nearly detached at the wrist, the result of an apparent sawing motion. Apart from those and several other deep wounds, authorities estimated that her body had been slashed more than 70 times.

A long history

According to Johnson’s testimony, he and Kingeter had known each other, at least in passing, since childhood. They had grown up on the same block on Page Street in West Berkeley, and both attended Berkeley High. Kingeter — who was a dedicated ballet dancer, performing for years at Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Theater — was several years ahead of Johnson, a football player.

The two started hanging out more after he graduated in 2007, he testified. Around the time of her death, the two were hanging out regularly, “kicking it” at Tilden or Grizzly Peak. They would smoke, drink and “just chill,” he said.

Jamaal Prince, via Facebook

Jamaal Prince, via Facebook

The night of Dec. 27, 2012, Johnson said he had been hanging out around the movie theaters in downtown Berkeley when he called Kingeter for a ride. Prince was also in the area. Johnson said he had been aware of Prince since he was young, but that the two had just started hanging out from time to time a month or two prior, when Prince had been released from jail.

Johnson, who is in custody on auto theft and robbery charges, initially said, Tuesday, that he didn’t remember most of the details of that night. Wednesday morning, after Judge Trina Thompson requested the presence of Johnson’s attorney, he was more forthcoming.

Johnson said Kingeter bought marijuana from Prince, who then asked for a ride to East Oakland. At around 10:40 p.m., the three of them ended up in the 5800 block of Walnut Street at an apartment that, according to police testimony Tuesday, belonged to the mother of Prince’s son. Oakland Police Sgt. Randolph Brandwood said Prince had allegedly stolen the woman’s keys and was believed to have made a copy to access the apartment. She had spent the night at a relative’s in Berkeley when the crime occurred, and said she did not know he had been there.

Sometime before midnight, according to Johnson, the three left and Prince bought some cocaine. According to surveillance footage, they returned to the apartment just before midnight. Johnson said all three of them were doing cocaine and drinking vodka.

At some point, less than an hour later, Johnson said Prince started “acting weird,” that his personality seemed to change suddenly: “He just started spazzing out. He just snapped.”

According to Johnson, Prince had started “rubbing up” on Kingeter. The two men then started to argue, and Prince allegedly pulled out a knife. Johnson didn’t provide a lot of detail, but said Prince started to wave the knife at him, wouldn’t let him get up from where he was seated, and tried to “stick him” with the knife.

Johnson said he was scared of what Prince might do, and that Kingeter had been scared as well. At about 12:15 a.m., surveillance footage shows Johnson leaving the apartment alone, with no apparent blood on him. He said Kingeter was alive when he left, and that Prince had not harmed her. He said he was concerned about her, however, adding that he tried to get to a phone to call her, but she didn’t answer.

After the murder

The three went to hang out in the 5800 block of Walnut Street, near Mills College in East Oakland. Image: Google maps

Prince allegedly asked for a ride from Kingeter to the 5800 block of Walnut, in East Oakland. Image: Google maps

Victor Jackson, who lives next door to the apartment where Kingeter was killed, said he was lying down watching a movie in his boxers at about 2:20 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2012, when he heard a knock at his door. As it was late, and he wasn’t expecting anyone, he said he first just turned up the television. He opened the door after a second knock, but didn’t see anyone. Perturbed, he went and got a kitchen knife in case there was trouble. He looked outside again and saw Prince lying naked on the ground, his head propped up against a stairway, his hands and face covered with blood.

“He had a lot of blood on him,” said Jackson, and he was asking for medical help. “He [said he] felt like he was dying. I called 911.”

Jackson passed the phone to Prince, then went to grab a sheet and a bucket of water for him. He also went to alert the landlord. Passing by the next-door unit, he “peeped in” for several seconds. It was long enough for him to see into the bathroom, which was covered in blood. On the floor, he saw a woman’s leg, and she appeared to be bleeding.

“Oh shit,” he remembers thinking.

As they waited for authorities, he said Prince was mumbling incoherently.

“It was crazy,” said Jackson. “He kept mumbling for help.” Jackson said he heard Prince say something about, “I think they got me. I think they got her. I think the bitch dead.” Jackson said he had the impression from those comments that someone else had been responsible.

Prince was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was treated for his injuries, which included cuts on his hands and left hip. Kingeter was pronounced dead at the scene.

The police interview

Brandwood, the police sergeant, said he arrived on Walnut at about 3:30 a.m., after the initial emergency response. Prince had already left for the hospital, but Kingeter’s body, lying face down, was still in the bathroom.

She was wearing sweatpants and had on one slipper, and was wearing a bra but no shirt. One bra strap appeared to have been pulled down. On the floor, Brandwood noticed men’s clothing and a pair of tennis shoes.

“It was very bloody, on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling,” he said. “It appeared there had been a violent struggle.”

About 12 hours later, on Dec. 28, 2012, Brandwood, the primary investigator on the case, interviewed Prince to learn more about what had happened. He said Prince gave him two versions of the story.

According to Brandwood, Prince had met Kingeter through Johnson that night. Prince allegedly told Brandwood that Johnson had promised him sex with Kingeter if he bought cocaine for the group. (Johnson vehemently denied numerous times on the stand having made that promise.)

After getting the cocaine, Prince told Brandwood he put on a pornographic movie and started to undress, thinking he was going to have sex. According to Brandwood, Prince claimed Kingeter and Johnson then went into the bathroom, where they argued. Prince said Johnson then stabbed Kingeter and, when he tried to intervene, Johnson turned on him, stabbing him in the hands before he passed out.

In the second version of the story, said Brandwood, Prince said he had gone into the bathroom to take off his clothes, when Kingeter produced a knife and stabbed him. Prince told Brandwood he took the knife away from her and stabbed her. He also told police, said Brandwood, that he believed Johnson and Kingeter may have been setting him up for a robbery.

Police arrested Prince in connection with Kingeter’s murder at 5:35 p.m. that day. He has been in custody, held without bail, ever since.

Shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, Judge Thompson ruled that Prince must face the murder charges against him, saying that enough evidence had been presented to allow for a reasonable belief that Prince could be responsible, which is the standard of proof during a preliminary hearing.

Prince is being held without bail and is scheduled to return to court Jan. 30.

Prince has several prior felony convictions, one of which sent him to prison. According to a 2010 news report, authorities said Prince tried to choke his mother, Jacqueline Stewart, while he was “high on drugs” and ranting to himself. In a 911 call recorded during the incident “Prince can be heard telling his mother that she is going to die and Stewart is heard screaming for help,” according to a 2010 Oakland Tribune article. She is reported later to have recanted once she found out the severity of the possible sentence against him.

Prince’s mother, who attended both days of testimony, said her family declined to comment about the current case.

Kingeter’s mother, Shantee Baker, attended a full day of intense, graphic testimony Tuesday, but said that afternoon that she didn’t plan to come Wednesday, as it would have been her daughter’s birthday.

“She was a beautiful person. She saw the good in people,” said Baker. “That was her gift and that was her flaw.”

Editors’ note: The comments on this story have been disabled.

Berkeleyside provides exclusive coverage of many of Berkeley’s most serious crimes. Read more here.

Related:
Relatives remember slain Berkeley woman (01.07.13)
New details emerge in stabbing of Berkeley woman (01.04.13)
Five-time felon charged with murder of Berkeley woman (01.03.13)

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  • foobar

    “I think the bitch dead.”

    Start with cultural attitudes like that, throw in some vodka and coke, plus a double-dose of crazy .. what could go wrong?

  • Name

    The #IMFADED pot reference on the alleged murderer’s t-shirt certainly paints a picture of a respectable and upstanding young man.

  • bgal4

    Perhaps if Prince’s mother had not recanted or had insisted he receive mental health therapy including for drug use, Jessica would not have been his victim.

    Families need to stop being co-dependent to drug and alcohol abuse and violence. Jail was the right place for Prince before he killed an innocent and confused young woman.

    I remember fondly the fairy tale themed birthday parties for Jessica with the children dressed as their favorite character.

    Julius could have easily made an anonymous report to the cops and maybe saved her life.

  • guest

    Could you be more specific about the way in which that quote represents a “cultural attitude,” and to which “culture” you might be referring?

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    Johnson said Prince started “acting weird,” that his personality seemed
    to change suddenly: “He just started spazzing out. He just snapped.” YA THINK…it might have had something to do with the Weed, Vodka. and Cocaine that you consumed all night…What a waste of life! Why do these women hang out with scumbags who think women are Bitches?

  • JuiceWeasel

    My heart weeps for the victim.

    Thoughts full of warmth and tenderness go out to East Oakland.

    Let’s keep a prayer in our hearts for Kingeter and her loved ones.

  • Am I wrong?

    Seems like an obvious reference to hip-hop culture.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny_in_hip_hop_culture

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    How about the culture that calls a woman a Bitch and thinks that’s perfectly normal…

  • berkeleyborn123

    Only in America do we justify letting such people on the street, then try to blame a) the victim, b) society, c) racism, d) poverty for their actions….the well may be too tainted to ever be drinkable again with generations of these people woven into society well into the foreseeable future….

  • Guest

    And I’ve never met anyone who smoked pot who didn’t breath air first. QED!

  • southberkeleyres

    The “friend” Kingeter, sounds like a drug-addled callous, selfish, coward with no common sense at best. Accessory to murder is another description. What a tragedy.

  • guest

    “These people”? Have you watched television or video games lately? The amount of graphic violence, mayhem, dissections of the human body, blood and gore, killings of all kinds, monster heroes, all kinds of monstrous behavior front and center,even celebrated. Absent parental and other moral guidance, a drug and alcohol addled youthful brain can easily take these fictions as reality. I am not making excuses for criminal behavior or for gang culture in particular, but let us be honest: crime has become central in American culture, and criminal monsters an icon of that culture. The cops may win in the end, but the plots are a game, and a confused and malleable young viewer/participant can side with the monster/criminals and hope to win at their own game, within their gang.

  • Berkeley Dude

    I kicked it in Provo park during the school years that Jamaal went to BHS. He wasn’t a “Parkee”. He never kicked it there. Where do you people get this shit? Maal was cool, until he got alcohol in his system. Everyone has slightly different neurochemestry, so some people will “spazz out” when they consume substances that manipulate or alter that neurochemestry. It’s just like a person who’s neurochemestry is such that they are psychotic and don’t take their meds. They spazz out. It’s deeper than “oh, he was a bad person”. I knew him. And as far as I could tell, he wast a bad person.