MONTE SERENO (CBS SF) — The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday dropped charges against a convicted prostitute in the slaying of a Monte Sereno man and solved a mystery about DNA in the case, a deputy district attorney said.
Prosecutors removed Raven Dixon as an accessory in the Nov. 30 murder of Raveesh Kumra in exchange for her guilty plea on Friday to prostitution with gang enhancement and marijuana sales charges, Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith said.
In her agreement with prosecutors, Dixon will be released from custody on July 18 with credit for the seven months she has served and a term of probation. She will not be required to testify in the Kumra case, Smith said.
Dixon, 23, appeared happy as she sat in red jail clothing beside her attorney Andrew Dosa at the Hall of Justice in San Jose this afternoon as the three remaining defendants, all charged with murder, looked on from a jury box.
Dosa said after the hearing that the evidence did not show “any connection to her and the crime and to any of the individuals who may have been involved” in the murder.
Kumra, 66, a wealthy former owner of a Saratoga winery, was found dead in his Monte Sereno home from asphyxiation after he was bound and gagged during a late night home invasion and robbery of cash and valuables, prosecutors said.
Harinder Kumra, Kumra’s wife, was tied up and beaten but survived and called police to report the invasion.
Javier Garcia, 21, of Oakland, Deangelo Austin, 21, of Sacramento and Katrina Fritz, 32, of Pittsburg are charged in the murder and robbery of Kumra and may face the death penalty, Smith said.
Charges against another former defendant in the murder, Lukis Anderson, 26, were dropped last month, after his defense attorney convinced prosecutors Anderson had been severely intoxicated and in a hospital hours before Kumra’s murder.
Hospital records showed that Anderson, drunk and unconscious, was transported with the aid of paramedics that night from downtown San Jose to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where he spent the night.
The murder and robbery charges against Anderson were lodged after Tahnee Mehmet, a criminalist with the Santa Clara County Criminalistics Laboratory, said she had found his DNA from a sample taken from Kumra’s body, a claim that Anderson’s attorney said had to be false.
But Smith said that the lab had confirmed today that the same paramedics who transferred Anderson to the hospital hours before Kumra’s murder also tried to resuscitate Kumra later that night, allowing for the transfer of Anderson’s DNA from them to the victim.
The news “vindicates” Mehmet in the face of doubts and criticism in the news media about her professional judgment and analysis of DNA from Kumra’s body, Smith said.
Dixon was arrested in Mountain View on Dec. 18 by undercover police officers on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder in the Kumra case and as well as felony narcotics, prostitution and being drunk in public.
Prosecutors had charged Dixon as an accessory, claiming that that she was one of three alleged prostitutes who had visited Kumra’s home when his wife was away or met him elsewhere.
Dixon’s alleged pimp was a member of an Oakland street gang known as “Ghost Town,” Smith said.
The district attorney’s office alleged that Dixon took photos of Kumra’s expansive Monte Sereno home to aid Garcia and Austin in carrying our the murder and that she knew Austin, a member of another Oakland street gang called “The Money Team.”
Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police detectives had found a copy of the contents of Dixon’s cellphone on Kumra’s laptop computer, which Dixon had transferred inadvertently, that included photos of Kumra’s house, grounds, gates and other entry points.
Smith said that prosecutors concluded recently that Dixon simply posted the photos on the photo sharing service Instagram and did not intend to use them to facilitate the attack.
Dosa said that Dixon had taken photos of Kumra’s huge residential property to serve as a collage of pictures, including a fountain between two large staircases, she posted on Instagram through her Facebook account.
“She thought it was kind of cool that she got to hang out at the house,” Dosa said.
Fritz, who is Austin’s sister, was another prostitute identified from Kumra’s laptop and led to murder charges against her, prosecutors said.
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