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Fairfiled man convicted of murder, rape

May 8, 2009 1:42:02 PM PDT
A Fairfield man has been convicted of second-degree murder for killing a 19-year-old woman in the Oakland hills on New Year's Day 2008 and four additional felony counts for sexually assaulting another 19-year-old woman eight days earlier.

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The verdict against 31-year-old Kenneth Washington by an Alameda County jury late Thursday marks the second time he's been convicted of killing someone because he has a prior voluntary manslaughter conviction for shooting and killing a man in El Cerrito in June 1997.

The second-degree murder conviction is for the death of Jessica Birden, whose badly beaten body was found by a hiker on a trail in the King Estates recreation area off Crest Avenue in Oakland shortly after 8 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2008.

Authorities believe Washington attacked Birden shortly after midnight.

The other four counts were for sexually assaulting the other 19-year-old woman at a house in East Oakland on Dec. 24, 2007. The counts were forced oral copulation, forcible rape, unlawful penetration with a foreign object and false imprisonment.

Jurors found Washington not guilty of an attempted murder charge. They also deadlocked on a sodomy charge.

In her closing argument last week, Washington's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Bonnie Narby, said she thinks there is reasonable doubt about whether Washington was the person who killed Birden.

Narby also said Washington should be acquitted of sexually assaulting the other woman because she thinks the sex was consensual.

But Deputy District Attorney Paul Delucchi said he believes the evidence clearly shows that Washington murdered Birden and sexually assaulted the other woman.

Delucchi said witnesses testified that Birden had worked for Washington as a prostitute and that he became upset at her when they had a dispute shortly before she was killed.

Birden died Jan. 4, 2008, three days after she was discovered. Washington was arrested in Vacaville later that same day.

Oakland police Cmdr. Jeff Loman said at a news conference four days later that police believed they arrested Washington just in time, as a 16-year-old girl was with him and police believe he planned to attack her as well.

The woman who was sexually assaulted by Washington testified that she met Washington on the street while she was on her way to a recording studio in East Oakland on Dec. 23, 2007, and agreed to meet him the next day.

The woman, identified in court only as Jane Doe, said Washington picked her up at her friend's house, drove her to the Oakland hills and then they wound up at a house in East Oakland. Washington was "really friendly and helpful" and was "a good listener" as she talked about her life but he suddenly turned angry when she sang a rap song that she had just composed that mentioned a prison gang, she said.

The woman said Washington then forced her to take off her clothes and forced her to have sex with him. She said he then ordered her to take a bath with him.

She said that when she asked him why, Washington said, "This is so when I kill you they won't find my DNA."

But the woman said she eventually managed to flea from the house. Washington served seven years in state prison for his voluntary manslaughter conviction but was then paroled.

Delucchi said Washington will face at least 31 years to life in state prison for his new convictions.

A sentencing date hasn't been set because Washington will return to court Wednesday for a brief trial to reaffirm his prior conviction.

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