Oakland: Alleged accomplice in triple Thanksgiving Day slaying freed after conviction overturned
www.mercurynews.com | April 8, 2016
Family photo of shooting victims Winta Mehari, 28, on right, and her mother Regbe Bahrengasi, 50. A jury found brothers Asmerom and Tewodros Gebreselassie guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the triple-murder slaying of their in-laws. Tewodros Gebreselassie appealed and his case was sent back to the Alameda County DA for possible retrial. Instead, he pleaded no contest to three charges of voluntary manslaughter. On April 4, 2016, Judge Paul Delucchi sentenced him to 10 years in prison time that he has already served and he was set free. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FAMILY)
OAKLAND — Nearly five years after being convicted of helping his brother kill three family members during a 2006 Thanksgiving Day dinner, a 47-year-old man walked free this week after his conviction was overturned and prison sentence revised.
Tewodros Gebreselassie and his brother Asmerom Gebreselassie were convicted in 2011 of killing their sister-in-law Winta Mehari, her mother Regbe Bahrengasi, 50, and her brother Yonas Mehari, 17, and for wounding two others. The Gebreselassie brothers were seeking to avenge their brother's death, whom they believed had been murdered by his wife, prosecutors said.
A photo of the gravesites of the three shooting victims Winta Mehari, 28, Regbe Bahrengasi, 50, and Yonas Mehari, 17, in their country of Eritrea. A jury found brothers Asmerom and Tewodros Gebreselassie guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the triple-murder slaying of their in-laws
Tewodros Gebreselassie's role in the slaying was letting his brother, the gunman, into the Telegraph Avenue apartment, according to court documents. But his conviction was overturned last fall by an appeals court and his case was sent back to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office for a possible retrial.
Photo of shooting victim Winta Mehari, 28, holding her then 2-year-old son before she, her brother Yonas Mehari, 17, and mother Regbe Bahrengasi, 50, were shot and killed
Instead, he pleaded no contest to three charges of voluntary manslaughter. On Monday, Judge Paul Delucchi sentenced him to 10 years in prison — time that he has already served — and he was set free.
Prosecutors had argued that Tewodros Gebreselassie, who was in the home at the time of the shooting, notified his brother and let him into the apartment where the Mehari family was gathering for Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 23, 2006. He then fled with his 2-year-old nephew, who is the son of his older brother Abraham and mother Winta Mehari.
A Mehari family photo, left to right, Angesom Mehari, Yonas Mehari, Winta Mehari, Regbe Bahrengasi, and Merhawi Mehari. Winta, Regbe and Yonas were all shot and killed.
Merhawi Mehari, one of Winta Mehari's brothers, said Thursday that he thanks God every day for the gift his sister left him, his nephew. But the orphaned boy, now 11, is beginning to ask questions about what happened to his parents.
Merhawi Mehari also spoke at Monday's sentencing, addressing Tewodros Gebreselassie, claiming that he was the real "mastermind" behind the crime.
Tewodros Gebreselassie in court
The appellate court agreed in September that Tewodros deserved a new trial, maintaining that a judge incorrectly admitted two statements from a detective that undermined Tewodros' credibility. In the ruling, the panel said it was improper for an Oakland homicide detective to testify that Tewodros statements that day "didn't add up."
Asmerom Gebreselassie, who was convicted of murder in the triple-slaying, blamed his sister-in-law for his older brother's death in March 2006, prosecutors said. However, a pathologist later determined that Abraham Gebreselassie's death was an unexplained natural death. Asmerom Gebreselassie was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in August 2011.