A UC Berkeley student recounted being attacked and stabbed by a friend, right after the killing of another young woman in January, during a hearing Monday to determine whether the murder case against Pablo Gomez Jr. would proceed to trial.
“Everything will be OK, just stop screaming,” the student said she was told by Gomez, who had seized her hair to keep her inside a backyard shed during the stabbing. She had found Gomez minutes earlier, holding a bloody knife, standing in the middle of a large amount of blood, according to her court testimony. “[Gomez] told me: ‘It’s your time now.'”
Gomez, 22, was also a UC Berkeley student at the time of the killing for which they* have been charged. During the Alameda County Superior Court hearing in Oakland, they wore red jailhouse scrubs over a purple T-shirt and kept their small hands clasped together on the table for much of the day. At times, they propped up their elbows and rested their face on their hands as they listened without reaction to the testimony that would determine the direction of the case.
Authorities say Gomez fatally stabbed a stranger, 27-year-old Emilie Inman, at her Ashby Avenue home near Alta Bates hospital on Jan. 6. She was stabbed multiple times, in the neck and abdomen. Her body was hidden beneath a pile of hay in her backyard, tucked under a plant blooming with yellow flowers. It took hours for police to realize Inman’s body was there due to the careful way she had been hidden, according to court testimony Monday afternoon.
Defense attorney George Arroyo, with the Alameda County public defender’s office, kept his questions brief. He focused on testimony related to his client’s possible break with reality during events that led up to the killing and the non-fatal stabbing of Gomez’s friend, Kiana Schmitt. Gomez appeared distressed in the 12 or so hours before the killing, and was muttering and agitated, and seeing hallucinations in the sky, Schmitt testified Monday morning. Broader psychological concerns were not presented, however, and a judge previously deemed Gomez mentally fit to face the four felony charges in the case.
As her small black service dog, which wore a bright green vest, at times licked tears from her face, Schmitt described her memories, to prosecutor John Ullom, of the day she said she was stabbed by her “close friend,” Gomez. The two had known each other for about a year as of January, when the incidents took place.
Gomez, Schmitt and several other people had driven up to Berkeley together in Schmitt’s car from Southern California on Thursday, Jan. 5, she said. Cal’s spring semester was to begin the next week. Along the way, Schmitt said Gomez talked passionately about a midnight ceremony Gomez had planned for the night ahead for Día de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day. The ceremony is also called Epiphany.
Gomez talked during the drive about having had visions and spiritual transformations, and described the upcoming ceremony as an important spiritual event in their Mexican indigenous culture. Gomez also described plans to leave Berkeley the next day for Mexico, Schmitt said.
Later that night, at UC Berkeley’s Afro House student cooperative, Gomez brought a number of items to be used for the ceremony, including a bandana, a flower and a lighter. They laid the items out in a sort of altar, Schmitt recalled. Another friend had brought some special bread or pastries that the group planned to eat at midnight.
Schmitt said a chunk of time passed while she and Gomez were in different rooms. Some of the friends, including Gomez, went “to smoke.” Schmitt said she didn’t smoke, so she didn’t join them. (What substance the friends were smoking, or who allegedly smoked, was not identified in court.)
About an hour later, Gomez appeared suddenly and was obviously “distressed,” Schmitt said. A scarf was draped over their body. They wore no shirt or pants, and were barefoot.
“Kiana, is this real?” Gomez asked, according to the testimony.
“Is what real?” Schmitt asked. “What’s wrong? What do you need?”
Gomez didn’t respond, but asked another person the same question before sprinting out of the house as friends chased close behind on nearby Channing Way. Schmitt said she helped in the search, but went to sleep before Gomez turned up. When she woke up Friday, Jan. 6, to move her car at 11 a.m., she saw Gomez about 20 feet away having a “heated talk” with a mutual friend. The friend walked away swiftly, and Gomez zeroed in on Schmitt.
“They ran up to my car, motioned for me to open the door and then they got in,” she said, of Gomez. She noticed that Gomez’s hair, which had been waist-length the prior night, had been cut very short. When Schmitt called her friend by the name “Pablo,” Gomez answered, “I’m not Pablo. I’m Ray now,” according to her testimony.
Gomez directed Schmitt to drive to a friend’s house south of campus, but wouldn’t let her get her phone so she could navigate: “I can lead you there. We need to go right now. It’s important,” she said Gomez told her. Gomez was “clearly distressed,” Schmitt said, and fidgeted with several items throughout the drive.
Gomez told Schmitt to drive to a home on Ashby, but would not name the friend who lived there. According to later court testimony by Berkeley Police Sgt. Peter Hong, the case agent, Gomez did have a friend who used to live at the house, but she had moved out a year prior. That woman told police Gomez had only visited her there once, but that the two were friends through “activist circles” and would see each other at “activist events.”
As Schmitt described what happened next, she began to get upset. Throughout her testimony, she pet her dog often, stroking the small animal’s ears and holding the dog close to her chest.
Schmitt said Gomez was “talking to themselves, muttering,” and told her, “Oh, there’s a woman in the sky. Can you see her?”
“What are you talking about?” Schmitt asked Gomez.
“We just need to go to that house,” Gomez said, according to Schmitt’s testimony.
Schmitt said she kept trying to find out what Gomez planned to do, and who lived in the home, but got reassurances rather than details: “It doesn’t matter. Everything will be OK,” Gomez said. They thanked Schmitt for the ride when the two arrived, jumping out and saying, “You’re such a good friend.”
Schmitt said she had “a weird feeling” and didn’t want to leave Gomez alone at an unfamiliar home. So she parked around the block and walked back to the house. It took her about five minutes, she estimated. When she walked up to the front door, it was wide open. There was no one in sight. She rang the doorbell, and called “hello” through the open door, but no one answered.
“I can’t have any uncertainty”
Schmitt said she heard “voices” coming from the left side of the house. She later testified it was Gomez’s voice she heard. She walked to the side gate to see where her friend was. As she recalled that walk, she furrowed her brow and looked toward the 20 or so friends and relatives of Inman who had come to witness the hearing.
The gate was closed, so she called out, “Pablo, are you there?”
“It’s me, I’m here,” she said Gomez answered.
“Then they said ‘come in,’ and they opened the gate,” she said.
Alongside the house, there was a significant amount of blood on the ground. Gomez was pacing through it, and holding a large bloody kitchen knife. Schmitt saw bright red splatters on Gomez’s sweatshirt, she testified as she tried to hold back tears.
“I was really confused,” she said, of the bright color. “I thought it was paint at first. I was like: ‘Where did all this blood come from?’ I thought it was Pablo’s blood.”
But Gomez had no apparent wounds, and told her: “Don’t worry about it,” she said. Gomez kept muttering and pacing, looking up into the sky. “I need your help. I need you to trust me,” she said Gomez told her. “I need your help cleaning this up.”
“I don’t know how to help you,” she told Gomez. “Whose blood is this?”
Schmitt said Gomez, not wanting anyone to overhear their conversation, led her into a shed in the backyard. She asked if she could hold the kitchen knife, but Gomez immediately told her “no,” she said.
Alone inside the shed, Gomez put their hands on her shoulders, and promised everything would be OK if Schmitt trusted and helped them.
“You can’t tell anyone about this, OK?” Gomez asked, according to Schmitt’s testimony.
“OK,” Schmitt answered. Gomez then “made a face” and appeared upset by the answer.
“Just OK?” Gomez asked.
“I won’t tell anyone. I promise,” Schmitt said.
“I can’t have any uncertainty,” Gomez said, according to Schmitt. Then the stabbing began.
Schmitt said Gomez stabbed and slashed her face, chin and neck, as well as her back and shoulders.
“It was happening really fast,” she said. “I was putting my hands up and trying to get the knife from them to stop them,” she said, of Gomez. “I’m begging them to stop.”
She continued: “They’re telling me to stop screaming: ‘Everything will be OK, just stop screaming.’ They said, ‘It’s your time now.'”
Schmitt broke down in ragged sobs and Judge Tara Desautels called for the morning recess. Outside the courtroom, Inman’s friends and family members hugged and held each other. Many were in tears.
After the break, Schmitt described how she tried to get the knife from Gomez, who grabbed and pulled her hair.
“I was saying, ‘No, no, please: It’s not my time,'” she said, as she grabbed for the door of the shed and held onto it.
“If you don’t let go, I’m going to do what you don’t want me to do. I’m going to count to three, and you better let go of the door,” Schmitt said Gomez told her.
“And then they started counting,” she said. Schmitt released the door, and Gomez dropped her hair. The attack stopped.
“I needed to teach you a lesson,” Schmitt said Gomez told her. She promised to help, and Gomez said the two needed to leave without being seen or heard, according to the testimony. Gomez gave Schmitt a cloth to tie around her nose and face to hide her injuries, and a pair of safety goggles to wear. Gomez had Schmitt put on boots from the shed because, she said, hers had blood on them.
“How do you feel?” Schmitt said Gomez asked her. “You look great.”
She continued: “And I just said, ‘Yeah, I feel great.’ Because I didn’t know what else to say.”
Schmitt said Gomez took her keys, and tried several times to use them to get into a different car parked in the driveway without understanding that those keys wouldn’t work. Schmitt directed Gomez to her car, around the corner, and Gomez got into the driver’s seat. It was a harrowing ride back to the north side of campus, she said, with Gomez speeding, running a red light, driving the wrong way up a one-way street, and weaving in and out of traffic.
Schmitt told defense attorney Arroyo she had never seen Gomez drive or talk that way before.
When the two parked on Ridge Road, at about 11:40 a.m., Gomez told Schmitt to hurry and come along, but then raced off on foot carrying a knife, she said. Schmitt said she couldn’t keep up: She was having trouble breathing and her energy was waning. Gomez disappeared in the distance and Schmitt asked a passer-by for help.
“She just looked at me with a weird expression and then she just kept walking,” Schmitt said. So the injured woman ran into street and flagged down a passing car. Its occupants saw the blood and called 911.
“They hurt me, I don’t know what to do,” she told two women in the car. “They have the knife still.”
Police responded to the area and began a lengthy search for Gomez that concluded in Burbank the next day, Jan. 7.
After Schmitt left the witness stand, several employees from the Berkeley Police Department testified about their roles in the case. Cuauhtemoc Vargas, a crime scene technician, confirmed he took photographs of Schmitt’s injuries. Officer Jesse Grant, who was a homicide detective when Inman was killed, described finding the young woman’s body in its hiding spot.
At noon Monday, when Grant described trying to find Emilie Inman’s body, it was the first time her name had been mentioned in the court proceedings, which had begun before 10 a.m. Grant said he was standing in the backyard on Ashby scanning the area when a yellow-flowering bush off to the left caught his attention. Beneath the plant, he saw what he believed was Inman’s body “covered quite meticulously with hay.”
He continued: “As I looked at it and realized that’s where she was, there was still some disbelief.”
There was no rise in the hay that would reveal a body.
“It didn’t seem voluminous enough to have a person under it,” Grant said. He walked over, brushed some of the hay away and saw Inman’s leg. He found her right arm and held it to confirm there was no pulse. As he described the scene, Inman’s parents held hands, and her father cried audibly for the first time throughout the day’s proceedings.
Grant said police also found a large knife, which appeared to have blood on it, in the shed in the backyard.
The attorneys made no closing arguments, and submitted their cases at about 2:30 p.m. Judge Desautels said it did appear, based on the evidence, that Gomez could have committed murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon as described in the charges, and that the case should proceed to trial.
Prosecutor Ullom told the judge he had decided not to submit evidence in connection with a robbery charge, so the judge dropped that felony allegation from the case. She ordered Gomez to continue to be held without bail, and ordered Gomez to return to court Nov. 27 for the next hearing in the case.
Earlier in the morning, before the proceedings began, Inman’s mother attempted to take a moment to introduce herself to, and acknowledge, a woman on the other side of the courtroom she thought might be Gomez’s mother.
“Are you Mrs. Gomez? I’m Emilie’s mom,” she said.
“We don’t want to talk right now,” said a young man seated beside the woman, curtly.
“I’m not asking any questions,” said Inman’s mother, shaken.
In the afternoon, Inman’s mother broke down outside the courtroom, weeping, and speaking loudly in the direction of the handful people who attended the hearing on Gomez’s behalf.
“Are you human beings to be like that?” she asked, choking with grief. “We are all human beings.”
Supporters led her into the stairwell for a moment of calm.
After the hearing concluded Monday, the Inman family respectfully declined to comment on the outcome of the day.