Woman killed in South Berkeley remembered as artist, humorist, lover of plants and pets

Nancy McClellan. Photo: David Gallagher
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On Russell Street a tree is blooming. Tibetan prayer flags are strung across its branches in a rainbow of color. White paper tags that flutter, holding messages of hope and healing, are its blossoms. Looking closer, one might notice laminated photographs and Buddhist passages hanging from the boughs, bouquets of flowers at its base.

The tree stands outside the Berkeley Zen Center, a Buddhist meditation group whose roots date back decades in South Berkeley. The memorial was created to honor Nancy McClellan, the zen center’s head gardener, who was mortally stabbed after leaving a wedding at the center in mid-September. McClellan died in October after being removed from life support when she failed to recover from the injuries she sustained the sunny Friday afternoon she was attacked less than a block from her beloved garden at the zen center.

Having just lost a friend to illness, McClellan spent much of the wedding telling those around her that she loved them, friends recalled.

Friday, Oct. 24, the 18-year-old man who has been charged with trying to kill 72-year-old McClellan after a failed carjacking is set to enter a plea in that case. Kamau Berlin of Richmond — a student at nearby B-Tech — has been charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with attempted murder and attempted carjacking. Berkeley police said, after McClellan’s death, the charge would likely be upgraded to murder.

Sunday, the Berkeley Zen Center held a memorial for McClellan to allow for “final goodbyes” from members of the meditation community, as well as others who knew McClellan.

This month, close friends of McClellan who live around the Bay Area have grappled with their grief, particularly as some thought at first she might recover from the brutal attack.

“I’ve had a hard time getting her out of my mind these last few weeks,” said Karl Anderson, a Castro Valley man who knew McClellan for more than two decades. “She probably looked like an easy target but, in fact, she must have fought back and that was what happened, knowing her. I can imagine she’d say, ‘Oh, no you don’t.’ She would not give in.”

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Allegro Coffee to open at new Berkeley Whole Foods

Jeremy Allegro
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Allegro Coffee Roasters is set to open a craft coffee shop in the Whole Foods Market store at 10th and Gilman in West Berkeley which is slated to open on Nov. 4. It is Allegro’s second location after Brooklyn where it also has a shop within Whole Foods.

Allegro Coffee Company was founded in 1977 in Boulder, CO, and was one of the first certified organic roasters in the country. It was bought by Whole Foods in 1997 and, since then, Whole Foods has offered Allegro’s coffee as its signature house roast. Allegro continues to operates as its own business entity from its Boulder HQ.

At the new Berkeley store, Allegro will be roasting and grinding beans on-site. The coffee shop will be at one end of the store with a separate roll-up door for those who want to drop by for coffee and aren’t necessarily shopping for groceries. Whole Foods spokesperson Beth Krauss said there will be “a nice breezy seating area outside the venue too.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

1 held, 1 freed in Berkeley hatchet homicide

The man police believe was Berkeley's first homicide victim of 2014 lived in this building on Addison Street. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A judge has freed a woman arrested after the killing of a Berkeley man in February, but ruled Thursday that her boyfriend must face the murder charge against him in the case.

Late Thursday afternoon, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon said enough evidence had been presented for 29-year-old Michael Diggs to continue to face prosecution in the Feb. 28 homicide of Sylvan Fuselier in his West Berkeley home.

A woman police said was Diggs’ accomplice in the case, 41-year-old , will not be prosecuted, and is set to be released from custody. She has been incarcerated without bail since March 31. Her attorney, James Giller, said her involvement amounted to “pure speculation,” and the judge ultimately agreed to drop the murder charge against her.  … Continue reading »

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News

The Berkeley Wire: 10.23.14

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Jessica Prentice
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UNCHARTED Wake up tomorrow morning and mingle with some of the most prominent and captivating thinkers across the disciplines. Berkeleyside presents the second annual Uncharted, a two-day festival jam-packed with  stimulating discussion and debate. On Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25, festival speakers and participants will gather at Berkeley Rep and Freight & Salvage to engage with big, daring, and dangerous ideas. This year’s exciting program includes musings on robotics, new energy, stereotyping, marriage equality, and 3D printing. A few one and two-day passes are still available for the extravaganza, which lasts 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with workshops, coffee breaks, and a party on Friday evening. Find out more. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley carjacking suspect charged in Oakland murder

Bennie Williams. Image: OPD
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A man linked to an armed carjacking in West Berkeley on Sunday, after reportedly ditching another stolen vehicle, has been charged with the Oakland murder of a 78-year-old man the same day.

Bennie Williams, 26, has been charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with the murder earlier on Sunday of Warner Willis.

Willis was found stabbed to death in his bungalow in the 1400 block of Chestnut Street at approximately 9:15 p.m., according to the Oakland Police Department.

Williams was apprehended by police several hours earlier, though authorities initially did not know about the alleged link to the Oakland crime.

According to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, Williams used a gun Sunday just after 4:45 p.m. to steal a 38-year-old woman’s vehicle at the SeaBreeze market in Berkeley near West Frontage and University Avenue.  … Continue reading »

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Uncharted Ideas festival: You’ve heard enough from us

View from the University Club where the Uncharted Party will take place on the evening of October 24, 2014. Photo: UCB
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Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas kicks off tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Berkeley. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, there is still time to do so.

Berkeleyside is organizing Uncharted for the second year running. Not only is the festival going to be an amazing two days — ask anyone who attended last year — it’s also one way Berkeleyside, which delivers oodles of free, original news reporting every day to the Berkeley community, aims to become a sustainable business in the long term.

But you’ve probably heard enough from Berkeleyside about Uncharted. Here’s a sample of what others are saying:

San Francisco Magazine: Go Do This: Berkeleyside’s Festival of Ideas

Thinking is — how do we put this? — hard. So you can imagine the difficulty in pulling off something billed as a “Festival of Ideas,” especially in a place like Berkeley, where every day is kind of a festival of deep thoughts. But that’s just what Berkeleyside is attempting with its second annual Uncharted festival this weekend. “A dinner party is a good metaphor,” says Lance Knobel, the site’s co-founder. “There’s no science to it — it’s an art” … Unlike TED talks — Uncharted is programmed as a series of conversations, rather than lectures. Read the full story at San Francisco Magazine. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Exclusive: Alleged killer says sexual advances toward girlfriend prompted Berkeley homicide

The man police believe was Berkeley's first homicide victim of 2014 lived in this building on Addison Street. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Michael Diggs, the homeless man charged with killing a 54-year-old Berkeley man with a hatchet in late February, told police he snapped after the victim walked naked into the bathroom where Diggs’ girlfriend was showering, then tried to force her to have sex with him.

Police arrested 29-year-old Diggs in early April in connection with the killing of Sylvan Fuselier in Berkeley more than a month before. Police also arrested 41-year-old , Diggs’ girlfriend, in the case. Authorities charged both with the Feb. 22 murder of Fuselier.

The couple has appeared in court this week before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, who will determine whether there is enough evidence against them for the case to proceed to trial.

Read full Berkeleyside coverage of the case.

During a lengthy interview after his arrest by Berkeley Police, Diggs confessed to killing Fuselier after the older man began acting strange and became insistent about having sex with Sessoms, who repeatedly refused his advances, according to a transcript of Diggs’ confession. … Continue reading »

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Audrey Martin: A dream fulfilled, plus more Berkeley gigs

Audrey Gilbert. Photo:  Irene Young
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On her 40th birthday Audrey Martin decided to sing. As a marriage and family therapist, she had spent years helping other people work through traumas, resolve deep-seated conflicts, and discover their true selves. Along the way she had set aside her adolescent ambition for a life in music, a sublimated dream that resurfaced with her midlife milestone. Martin’s long and winding creative journey resulted in the captivating debut album Living Room (full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes). She celebrates the CD’s release Sunday afternoon at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory, which played an essential role in her musical education.

“This is the culmination of 17 years of planning and effort at learning the art of jazz and bringing together music that I‘ve wanted to perform and record,” says Martin, a Berkeley resident since 1998. “It also represents an integration of my musical self and my life as a psychotherapist.” … Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 10.22.14

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Berkeley School Board: 3 seats contested by 5 candidates

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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Three seats on the Berkeley Unified school board are being contested by five candidates in this year’s election. Three of the candidates — Josh Daniels, Karen Hemphill and Julie Sinai — are incumbents on the board (although Sinai was appointed, not elected, following the resignation of Leah Wilson). Ty Alper and Norma Harrison are the two non-incumbents running for the board.

Berkeleyside asked each of the candidates a number of questions about both their background and their views on some key issues facing Berkeley schools. The responses to the questions are provided in alphabetical order below.

One slightly unusual aspect about the school board race is that the three incumbents have endorsed each other and are circulating literature encouraging voters to elect them as a combined slate. Since school-board elections are citywide, building name recognition among voters is often particularly difficult for non-incumbents. … Continue reading »

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Farm Burger brings Southern flair to East Bay scene

Farm Burger did a popup grill serving burgers at the grand opening of Gilman District on xxx. Phot: courtesy Farm Burger
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Think the East Bay has its fair share of burger restaurants? Think again.

Starting early next month, West Berkeley will welcome the fifth location of Farm Burger, a grass-fed burger franchise from Atlanta, Georgia. Farm Burger will join Philz Coffee, Doughnut Dolly, and Whole Foods in the brand-new Gilman District development at 10th and Gilman.

Farm Burger started with a stroke of luck. Founders George Frangos and Jason Mann originally met when Frangos ran a reference check for one of Mann’s old employees. At the time, Mann was at the helm of the Athens, GA farm-to-table restaurant, Farm 255, and Frangos was managing restaurants in Atlanta, GA and Portsmouth, NH. After meeting, Mann hired Frangos to consult on his restaurant.

“He and I were just sitting around one day looking at the business model for his restaurant and we realized that what really sold were a lot of burgers,” said Frangos. “At one point I thought, ‘We should just open up a grass-fed burger place, raise all the cattle, and call it a day.’ The idea stuck with me.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: BCCE union contract, compensation report on the agenda

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 22) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.  Follow along via the Oct. 22 agenda packet.

The board is scheduled to approve a contract for a staff union that has been under negotiation for three years. The board will also approve new compensation levels for classified staff, based on comparisons with similar districts.

In addition, the board will discuss reports on indicators of student progress and adult-school benchmarks.

Closed session

The board will begin its Wednesday meeting at 6 p.m. with a closed session to discuss collective bargaining and the evaluation of Superintendent Donald Evans. Public comment, up to 15 minutes, will be taken prior to the closed session. Details are on page 1 of the regular packet. … Continue reading »

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