Search for 17-month-old son of slain Oakland woman winds down at Aquatic Park

Updated: 11/14/2009 04:58:49 PM PST

BERKELEY "” The missing toddler of an Oakland woman found dead at Aquatic Park had not been in the care of his mother for nearly two weeks, relatives of the slain woman said Saturday.

A Berkeley police officer found 23-year-old Zoelina Williams beaten and shot at least twice about 4 a.m. Friday.

Authorities searched Aquatic Park and the surrounding waterways all day Saturday but did not find 17-month-old Jashon Williams or any evidence related to his disappearance, police said.

Curtis Martin, 38, of Oakland was arrested about 1 p.m. Friday as a suspect in Zoelina Williams" slaying. Police said Martin is not talking about the slaying or the missing child. Martin is not the father of the missing boy, though it was not clear whether Williams and Martin had been in a romantic relationship, police and relatives said.

Malcolm Lewis, Zoelina Williams" uncle, said a sister of Martin"s had been watching the toddler since the night of Oct. 31.

Williams apparently asked Martin for a ride to Vallejo early Friday "” possibly to get the child "” but something happened on the way, relatives and authorities said. Police on Friday recovered a van in West Oakland believed to be used in the homicide.

Berkeley and Oakland police apparently did not know Williams even had a child until her relatives notified them after she turned up dead. Oakland police said she and Jashon had been living with relatives on Chestnut Street in West Oakland.

Samantha Ratcliff said she last spoke with Williams, a lifelong friend, Nov. 8.

"We went out for my birthday,— said Ratcliff, 22. "I asked her when the last time (was) she"d seen her baby, and I said, "When are you getting him back?—

Oakland police Officer Jeff Thomason could not confirm the relative"s story that Jashon has been gone since Oct. 31.

"It is believed that (the child) was with his mother during the time she was murdered," Oakland police said in a statement.

About 25 Berkeley police officers, divers and foot patrol crews from the Alameda County Search and Rescue Team arrived at Aquatic Park before dawn Saturday and searched for many hours.

"We haven"t found anything relevant to this case,— said Berkeley police Lt. Andrew Greenwood.

An inflatable boat and at least three dogs, including one cadaver dog, were used in the search police said. A California Highway Patrol fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter from the East Bay Regional Parks Department also searched.

Oakland police searched Williams" and Martin"s houses in West Oakland but turned up nothing related to the missing child. Police would not comment on whether authorities are searching, or will search, other areas in Berkeley, Oakland or surrounding cities.

The relatives of the suspect and the victim live just two blocks from one another and are friends who had a picnic together in a West Oakland park in September, Williams" relatives said. A sister who came to the gate at the Martin home declined to comment Saturday.

Martin has a criminal record dating back to the early 1990s. In 1994, he was arrested in the beating death of 3-year-old Devin Brewer of Oakland, the son of his girlfriend at the time. He served six years in prison for the crime.

The child died at an Oakland hospital the day after Martin took him for a haircut and returned him bruised and swollen.

Martin claimed the boy had fallen at the park.

He originally was charged with murder but was allowed to plead no contest to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for 11 years in prison, authorities said Friday. He was out of prison by 2000 because he was given credit for time served.

In 2008, he was arrested for violating a court order to prevent domestic violence. He was never prosecuted.

At the time of Devin"s slaying, Martin was on parole for robbery and previously was convicted of armed robbery, burglary and weapons violations.

Williams" death marks Berkeley"s fifth homicide of the year.

No comments: