Man sentenced in murder of his 89-year-old aunt

August 6, 2010 1:03:56 PM PDT
An Oakland man was sentenced today to life in prison without parole for beating and stabbing his 89-year-old aunt to death and then setting her home on fire three years ago in an attempt to cover up his crime.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Joan Cartwright told 53-year-old Allen Thomas that his attack on Amanda Pierre on Sept. 14, 2007, "was one of the most horrific crimes this court has seen."

Cartwright said, "You killed your own flesh and blood in a cold, calculated and extremely brutal killing."

On June 3, after less than one full day of deliberating, jurors found Thomas guilty of first-degree murder, arson and three special circumstance clauses: murder during a robbery, murder during a burglary, and murder during a rape with a foreign object.

Deputy District Attorney Annie Saadi said Thomas had been robbing and stealing from Pierre for years to feed his long-time drug habit. She said Pierre had gotten a restraining order against him in 2006 because she was afraid of him and "he didn't like that very much."

Saadi said a neighbor reported to authorities that Thomas told him a few hours before Pierre's death that he was mad at her because she believed she had kept money from him that he thought he was owed in a settlement.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2007, firefighters responded to a blaze at Pierre's home at 710 24th St. in Oakland, Saadi said.

Paramedics found Pierre's "lifeless and bloody body" on the floor of her bedroom, she said.

She said paramedics immediately suspected that the blaze was suspicious because Pierre had "wounds on her chest that were not consistent with being caused by a fire."

Saadi said investigators concluded that the fire was deliberately set, likely with an accelerant, and discovered that the smoke detectors in Pierre's home had been disabled.

She said investigators then found a 13-inch chef's knife and a large pipe wrench in Pierre's bedroom.

An autopsy found that Pierre died from blunt trauma to her head and multiple stab wounds to her chest. Saadi said Pierre suffered a broken jaw and a fractured face and at least 11 stab wounds to her chest, with one wound penetrating through her body.

Saadi said blood and DNA evidence tied Thomas to his aunt's death and he eventually admitted that he had "a physical confrontation" with her but claimed that her death was an accident.

Thomas' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brendon Woods, admitted that Thomas was responsible for his aunt's death but said the issue in the case was Thomas's frame of mind at the time.

Woods said Thomas had been a drug addict for many years and was under the influence of crack cocaine, alcohol and painkillers that evening.

Woods told jurors that the crime was not premeditated and Thomas carelessly left behind "a trail of blood" because he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

He said he believes voluntary manslaughter would be a more appropriate verdict for Thomas than first-degree murder.

Samantha Easiley, who is Thomas's brother and was Pierre's niece, said in a letter to court that Saadi read aloud in court today that she suffered a broken left foot when other family members attacked her when she told Oakland police that Thomas was "the number one suspect" in Pierre's death.

Easiley said, "We had to relocate to San Antonio, Texas, in April 2009 because the whole family was trying to protect Allen. I can't live or visit Oakland without fear that we're going to be attacked by our family or friends of Allen Thomas."

Easiley said Pierre "was the faithful, committed, God-fearing woman of our family" and "was all about making sure the family was cared for."


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