Man given max. sentence for killing friend

July 11, 2008 8:08:21 PM PDT
An emotional drama played out in an East Bay courtroom Friday between two families that had previously been friends, but were torn apart by a shooting.

Judge Vernon Nakahara did not believe the shooting was an accident as the defense had claimed, and gave 24 year old Christopher Hollis the maximum sentence of 24 years in state prison for the voluntary manslaughter of then 19 year old Meleia Willis-Starbuck.

Hollis' attorney had asked for leniency.

"There was no mercy involved, he was given the maximum sentence," Hollis' attorney Greg Syren said.

Willis-Starbuck's biological father was sorry Hollis did not get more jail time.

"I hope he's in jail and doesn't get to see his daughter grow up, because he took my daughter away," Jon Kalish said.

As he was led away, Hollis seemed to smile at family and friends who had filled the courtroom to hear the verdict, many of whom left the courtroom in tears. No one was willing to talk about the verdict.

Hollis was convicted of voluntary manslaughter last April; prosecuters had wanted a murder conviction.

Hollis claimed Willis-Starbuck called him on the morning of July 17, 2005 asking for help and to bring heat. She and some friends had been accosted by some U.C. Berkeley football players.

When Hollis arrived, he fired into the crowd. One shot hit Willis-Starbuck in the heart.

Willis-Starbuck's cousin and godmother Chea Castro said that Hollis has lied and never showed remorse.

"She would have never called him to bring the heat, something that the press has reported for the past three years," Castro said. "And I want him to think about being a better man."

Willis-Starbuck's best friend Sasha Werblin said this sentence does not bring anyone closure.

"She's still not here," Werblin said. "The judgement cannot bring her back."

A bench was built last year in Willis-Starbuck's memory at Collegeand Shattuck Avenues, near where she was shot and killed.

Hollis will not be eligible for parole for 20 years.


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