A connection between Monday’s violent predawn home-invasion robbery in Petaluma and a similar deadly confrontation last month in Santa Rosa emerged in court Wednesday when a deputy public defender told the judge her office was not available for appointment because of an undisclosed conflict.
Both incidents involved suspects from the East Coast, and the Public Defender’s Office already has been appointed in the February home invasion that left a southwest Santa Rosa man dead and another wounded. Under the law, attorneys and firms cannot represent more than one defendant in any related case.
“Per Ms. Pozzi’s instructions, we have a conflict,” Melissa Coughlin told Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite, referring to orders from her boss, Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi.
Pozzi would not discuss the nature of the conflict, explaining only that she could not compromise the defense of any client over another. Brian Staebell, a spokesman for District Attorney Jill Ravitch, also would not discuss a possible connection.
But attorneys familiar with the details said they were related. Four of the suspects arrested this week were from Richmond, Virginia as are two suspects in the February case.
One of them, Amber Hembree, 20, remains at large. A woman also remains wanted in the Petaluma case. But a sheriff’s spokesman said the physical description of the two women does not match.
The men in the Petaluma case made their first court appearances Wednesday afternoon under high security. Clad in blue jail uniforms and with their hands shackled to waist chains, each stood when his name was called as a dozen armed deputies looked on.
The suspects are Chrisshawn Denardray Beal, 20, Jaray Day-Shawn Simmons, 28, and Ledarrell Javon Crockett, 28, all from Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Melvin Corbin, 19, Nakia Robert Lydell Jones, 22, Romello Shamar Jones, 20, and Siddiq Jafar Abdullah, 21, all from Richmond, Virginia.
All are charged in a 12-count complaint alleging kidnapping for ransom of cash and marijuana, and multiple counts of home-invasion robbery, burglary and assault with a firearm.
A sheriff’s spokesman said they kicked in the doors of three Eugenia Drive homes just outside the Petaluma city limits early Monday looking for marijuana but instead finding frightened residents. One man was pistol-whipped.
The suspects appear to have mistaken the locations for another property in the neighborhood where marijuana had been grown in the past, authorities said.
They were arrested within hours after fleeing south through Marin County and San Francisco.
Thistlethwaite set their bail at $1.4 million each. Their next appearance will be Monday morning before Judge Shelly Averill.
On Feb. 8, masked intruders broke into two homes on Santa Rosa’s outskirts before dawn. A 42-year-old man was shot and wounded in the arm at a home on Fulton Road, while Jose Luis Torres, 54, was shot and killed at a Melcon Lane home.
The intruders demanded cash and marijuana. None was present at either house. Deputies found evidence of previous outdoor marijuana cultivation at the Melcon Lane home. They are still investigating whether illegal sales had taken place there, too, according to a department spokeswoman.