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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Berkeley police identify two suspects in Willis-Starbuck shooting

WEB UPDATE, July 21, 9:14 p.m.

Berkeley police announced further progression in their investigation into the murder of Meleia Willis-Starbuck '07, releasing names of two suspects on Wednesday.

The city's homicide detectives used leads they had gathered from the investigation to serve search warrants for Christopher Larry Wilson Jr. of Berkeley, Ca., and Christopher Lester Hollis of Hayward, Ca.

Wilson, 20, turned himself into police upon arriving at the Berkeley Police Department with his attorney. He is suspected of being the getaway driver at the scene of the crime.

Hollis, 21, who police identified as the shooter in Willis-Starbuck's case, is not yet in custody.

Friends of Willis-Starbuck said both men were close friends of Willis-Starbuck, but Berkeley police are not commenting on this relationship, noting the investigation's active status.

Abby Mikael, a close friend of Willis-Starbuck who did not witness the murder, told The San Francisco Chronicle that the two suspected boys were "close friends of ours."

Willis-Starbuck was gunned down around 1:45 a.m. early Sunday morning while standing outside of her apartment on College Avenue. The murder occurred shortly after she concluded an argument with a group of male students from the University of California at Berkeley.

Stephanie de Souza, another friend of Willis-Starbuck's, invited Willis-Starbuck to join her outside of a dormitory that lies across the street from Willis-Starbuck's apartment. De Souza had left a dance party located in the residential hall.

Outside, Willis-Starbuck and her friends met a group of male UC Berkeley students who had left the dance party as well.

The boys were friends of de Souza, and an argument broke out between the two groups. The police reported, and de Souza confirmed, that the argument ended without incident.

"I know all of those guys, they're all friends of mine," de Souza told The Dartmouth earlier this week. "None of them are the type to own a gun, they are very smart boys, it was a joke. They didn't mean any harm."

De Souza emphasized that while the males' taste of humor might not have been appropriate for everyone, "the argument was squashed" by the end.

Despite de Souza's assertions that the argument was innocent, the situation led Berkeley police to speculate that Willis-Starbuck was accidentally shot by a friend after she called for help during the argument. At this point, it is not clear whether Hollis or Wilson had been called by Willis-Starbuck.

Police stated that the actual shooting took place when a black male exited his car on Dwight Way and fired multiple shots in the vicinity of Willis-Starbuck's group of friends.

Danielle Youngblood, a friend of Willis-Starbuck's who was with her at the time of the shooting, told The San Francisco Chronicle that the other girls had entered a parked Ford Explorer while Willis-Starbuck remained outside to speak with the group of men when the incident occurred.

Wilson is being held on a $100,000 bail. There is a $15,000 reward for the arrest of Hollis, police identified as approximately 5-feet 9-inches tall with a medium build and a short hairstyle.

Samantha Ackah contributed to this report.