Defendant in 2008 Berkeley sexual assault case faces new Albany murder charge

Randhir Kaur was killed in Albany in 2015. An arrest in her killing has just been announced. Photo: UCSF

An Antioch man arrested in 2015 in connection with the 2008 sexual assaults of two Berkeley teenagers has now been charged with the murder of an Albany dental student in her Kains Avenue apartment three years ago.

The Albany Police Department on Monday announced the break in the fatal shooting investigation from 2015. Randhir Kaur, 37, was found dead in her apartment in the 1000 block of Kains, just blocks from the Berkeley border, on March 9, 2015. Friday, exactly three years after the discovery of her body, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Keith Kenard Asberry Jr., 33, with her murder.

Kaur’s killing in 2015 took place less than two weeks after authorities say Asberry attacked a North Berkeley woman in her home in broad daylight. At the time, police said the attack was part of a home-invasion burglary attempt. Police were unable to catch the assailant, but Asberry was picked up several months later during a traffic stop. DNA testing of Asberry’s blood tied him to the Berkeley sexual assaults and burglary attempt, as well as to a 2005 sexual assault and home-invasion case in El Cerrito, according to archival reports online from media and authorities reviewed Monday by Berkeleyside.

Asberry made the news back in 2016 when the San Francisco Chronicle reported his DNA linked him to the previously unreported sexual assaults of two teenagers, ages 15 and 19, carjacked at gunpoint near Berkeley High School in 2008. The Chronicle’s 2016 investigation focused on the county-wide backlog of rape kits at that time, but also highlighted how the Berkeley Police Department’s failure to send in Asberry’s DNA for testing delayed the discovery of the alleged culprit in the 2008 case. Police said the rape kit had “fallen through the cracks,” the Chronicle reported, but said they could not explain why.

According to the Chronicle, “The two teens reported that a man with a gun approached their car on Allston Way in Berkeley, just a block from Berkeley High School, before 10 p.m. on May 16, 2008, and jumped into their backseat. He forced the 19-year-old to drive to a dead-end street, where she said he blindfolded her with her sweater and then raped her in the car before digitally penetrating the 15-year-old girl.” The teenagers went straight to the hospital for sexual assault forensic exams, known more commonly as rape kits, the Chronicle said.

The 2008 Berkeley rape kit was finally processed six years later, in 2014, as part of a push by the Alameda County district attorney’s office to work through the 1,900-kit county-wide backlog with the help of federal funding. The Chronicle reported, in 2016, that authorities had issued a warrant in the summer of 2014 for Asberry’s arrest for the 2008 rapes. But the Antioch man never was picked up.

On Feb. 26, 2015, the Chronicle reported, Asberry’s DNA popped up again in Berkeley in connection with a violent attack on a North Berkeley woman in her home. Berkeleyside broke the news then of what was described as a home-invasion burglary attempt, in the 2300 block of Eunice Street at about 10 a.m. The assailant was described as black with a medium complexion, wearing black nylon clothing, 20-40 years old, and over 6 feet tall with a slim-medium build. He grabbed the woman in her home as she was unpacking groceries, and she screamed as they struggled. He ran off, but not before leaving blood on her shirt, authorities later said.

Less than two weeks later, on March 9, 2015, UCSF dental student Kaur was fatally shot in her Kains Avenue apartment, according to Monday’s announcement from the Albany Police Department. APD said officials at UC San Francisco had become “concerned” about Kaur’s absence and asked a relative to check on her. According to news reports at the time of her death, that was because she hadn’t shown up for appointments. The relative found Kaur unresponsive at her home, and that ultimately brought police there.

Albany investigators determined Kaur had been fatally shot and killed in her apartment, according to Monday’s statement. APD said detectives could not initially find a suspect or motive in the killing. But they did find some of Kaur’s belongings in a garbage can in Richmond, police said.

The Albany Police Department said Monday its “exhaustive three-year investigation” ultimately led to the identification of Asberry as the murder suspect. And APD thanked Kaur’s family “for their patience, understanding and support” over the years. Kaur’s homicide was the agency’s first murder case since 2004, according to media reports, and there has not been another one since.

APD said it cannot release any other information due to a court order “restricting public dissemination or statements of information relative to this case,” according to Monday’s statement.

Friday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Asberry with Kaur’s murder. He is set to enter a plea in the murder case March 28 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in downtown Oakland, according to jail records online.

Asberry has been in custody since his arrest during a traffic stop in June 2015, according to a 2016 Chronicle story. Court records online indicate the stop took place in Emeryville, but Berkeleyside was unable to verify that as of publication time. Berkeleyside has requested additional information from the district attorney’s office, including the status of the Berkeley sexual assault case from 2008. This story will be updated if that information is provided.

Asberry is also facing other charges as a result of DNA testing and “improved” scientific methods, authorities have reported. The El Cerrito Police Department reported in November 2017 that it had connected Asberry, through “a new DNA test,” to a home-invasion case on Valentine’s Day in 2005 with two female victims. (Their ages were not provided.) ECPD said Asberry wore a mask and forced his way inside their home with a gun, then demanded “money and jewelry.” He sexually assaulted one of the females, then tried to kidnap them both at gunpoint. When they put up a fight, he fled in their vehicle, ECPD reported. The agency identified Asberry as a Richmond resident.

Asberry is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

UCSF previously described Kaur, in a statement after her death, as a “treasured member” of the school community who would be deeply missed. A memorial service was held for her.

The Chronicle reported in 2015, in the days after her killing, that Kaur, who was from India, had been “a student at the UCSF School of Dentistry’s International Dentist Program, which admits 24 foreign-trained dentists each year. She had been at the university for eight months and was to graduate in June 2016.” The Chronicle said a neighbor heard Kaur’s cousin calling for help after he found her body in a pool of blood and realized she was dead.

Kaur had gone to services at an El Sobrante Sikh temple in the hours before she was killed, according to a 2015 Chronicle story. The homicide took place March 8, 2015, the evening before her body was found. Kaur had been shot once in the head, the Chronicle reported at that time.

The Albany Police Department asks anyone with information about the Kaur case to call the Albany Police Department at 510-525-7300.