Fugitive Double Murder Suspect Extradited Back to Alameda County and Charged with the Shooting Deaths of Two San Lorenzo Women

Fugitive Double Murder Suspect Extradited Back to Alameda County and Charged with the Shooting Deaths of Two San Lorenzo Women

May 17, 2024

OAKLAND, CA—Today, DA Pamela Price announced Howard Reed (31), has been charged with the murder of Jingwei “Melanie” Zhang (32), and the murder of Dorothy Mak (38). Both victims were found deceased on May 4, 2024, in a residence that they shared with the defendant in San Lorenzo.

According to the investigative report, deputies from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office conducted a welfare check at the residence in San Lorenzo after receiving calls from concerned family and friends who reported they had not heard from the two victims since late April 2024.

Upon entering the residence, the deputies found evidence of a shooting and the bodies of Ms. Zhang and Ms. Mak. The deputies did not find the defendant at the scene. Information found at the scene was used by investigators to locate the defendant. On May 5, 2024, the defendant was arrested by local law enforcement in Kansas City, Missouri, and later extradited on a fugitive, no-bail warrant back to Alameda County.

“I commend the Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies for their swift action in tracking down the alleged shooter and Kansas City law enforcement for assisting them with the arrest of Mr. Reed,” said DA Pamela Price. “This is another gun-related tragedy in our community, this time claiming the lives of two women. Too often, guns and intimate partner violence turns deadly. Perhaps these two women would still be with us if he had not had a gun. Now that Mr. Reed has been captured and returned to Alameda County to face justice for this tragic crime, my office will hold him accountable on behalf of the two victims and their families.”

If convicted of the murder charges, Mr. Reed faces a potential prison sentence of 50 years to life in Prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 17, 2024, at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.

 

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

Jury Finds Joseph Roberts Guilty of Second-Degree Murder in the Death of Rachel Buckner 

May 13, 2024

OAKLAND, CA — Today, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced that prosecutors obtained a conviction against Joseph Roberts, 43, for the murder of Rachel Elizabeth Imani Buckner. The jury deliberated for less than a day and found Defendant Roberts guilty of second-degree murder for murdering Ms. Buckner, whose dismembered body was found along a waterfront trial in Alameda.

The testimony and evidence presented at trial showed that on July 20, 2023, the Alameda Police Department responded to a suspicious circumstance report. When officers arrived on the scene, they found a woman’s dismembered body inside a black garbage bag near the Harbor Bay Club on Bay Farm Island. On August 29, 2023, the female was identified as 27-year-old Rachel Buckner.

The jury also heard evidence that Mr. Roberts’ DNA was found on the duct tape used to seal the garbage bag. Mr. Roberts and Ms. Buckner met at Golden Gate University Law School in 2019 and lived together in an apartment in Pleasanton. Police records show Pleasanton police officers were called to the apartment for multiple welfare checks and domestic violence calls. Although Ms. Buckner was living with Mr. Buckner at the time of her disappearance, the evidence shows that he never reported that she was missing.

“I first want to thank the jury for their work in delivering this guilty verdict,” said DA Pamela Price. “I also want to thank the City of Alameda Police Department, the FBI, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for their diligent investigation. I also want to commend our entire prosecution team, including Deputy District Attorney Colleen Clark, DAO Inspector Bruce Christiansen, Victim-Witness Advocate Erica Chavis, and our professional support staff for their compassionate support of the family and friends of Ms. Buckner.  Today’s verdict brings justice not only to Rachel Elizabeth Imani Buckner but also to her daughter, her immediate and extended family, and our community. What happened to Rachel Elizabeth Imani Buckner is unimaginable. The condition of her body when it was found shocks our humanity. This tragedy will leave her family and our community forever traumatized whenever her murder is mentioned.”

Mr. Roberts faces 15 years to life in prison. The second-degree murder charge was the maximum charge he faced due to the circumstances of the case. He will be sentenced on June 14, 2024, at the René C. Davidson Courthouse, Department 8.

 

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

 

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is one of California’s largest prosecutors’ offices and is led by Alameda County’s first Black woman District Attorney Pamela Y. Price. Price brings her vision to this office to fairly administer justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities for every person who steps foot in Alameda County, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, or zip code. Price has been recognized as one of the most progressive prosecutors through her forward-thinking, innovative strategies to interrupt cycles of violence and crime and bring change to a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism. Follow Madam DA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and @AlamedaCountyda on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

 

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Announces Lawsuit Against Automobile Insurance and Software Companies, Alleging Scheme Underpaying California Residents for Totaled Vehicles to Maximize Insurance Profits 

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Announces Lawsuit Against Automobile Insurance and Software Companies, Alleging Scheme Underpaying California Residents for Totaled Vehicles to Maximize Insurance Profits

May 9, 2024

OAKLAND, CA — Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announces that her Consumer Justice Bureau has sued multiple automobile insurance companies and their affiliated software developers, alleging they worked together to create and use automobile valuation software to systematically undervalue “totaled” vehicles and pay California insurance consumers less than the actual value owed under the policies.

The civil consumer protection Complaint alleges this automobile undervaluation scheme violates numerous California laws, including California’s Insurance Code, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law. The Complaint demands civil penalties, restitution for California consumers, injunctive relief, and associated fees and costs.

“A vehicle is the lynchpin to life in California. Many residents live paycheck to paycheck and go deeply into debt just to buy a car. When an insurance company underpays its customers for a totaled vehicle, that can result in missed loan payments, damaged credit scores, impacted borrowing, and the inability to buy a replacement vehicle. That can lead to job losses and even homelessness. California residents and small businesses try their best to follow the law. They expect their insurance companies and affiliates to do the same,” said District Attorney Pamela Price.

The 69-page Complaint filed in Alameda Superior Court on April 26, 2024, amended on April 30, alleges that multiple automobile insurance companies – including The Progressive Corporation and its affiliates (“Progressive Insurance”), United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates (“USAA”) – owed duties of good faith and fair dealing to “hundreds of thousands of California residents and businesses each year.” Despite these legal duties, the Complaint alleges the insurance companies use specially designed automotive valuation software to undervalue totaled vehicles to pay vehicle owners less money than they are owed.

The Complaint further alleges that the software developers (including CCC Information Systems and Mitchell International) worked with these automobile insurance companies to build into the software the means to manipulate and lower the reported “actual cash value” of the totaled vehicles and that the modified software is sold exclusively to automobile insurance companies. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that the software uses a deceptive set of so-called “comparable” vehicles and outcome-determinative adjustments to allow the insurance companies to lower the reported “actual cash value” of the totaled vehicles. The insurance companies then allegedly make “lowball” settlement offers to their customers and refuse to negotiate in good faith, relying on the purportedly “independent” software-generated deflated “actual cash value”. The Complaint alleges that these insurance companies failed to disclose to their customers that they worked with the software developers to create exclusive versions of this software for their use or that they used the means built into that software to lower the “actual cash value” on which they base their settlement offers.

The Complaint further alleges that once the insured accepts the lowball offer, the insurance companies can resell the same vehicle at auction to minimize its losses further: “Inherent to the Scheme is this loss recoupment opportunity: the [insurance company] would rather total a vehicle than repair it because of the opportunity to recoup…. If [it] pays to repair the vehicle, it has no ability to recoup any of that loss.”

The Complaint alleges this scheme harms all Californians paying insurance companies for what they expect to be a fair deal but is especially impactful on “disadvantaged Californians, including senior citizens, economically disadvantaged persons, and persons of color.” Under California’s Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law increased civil penalties are imposed for unlawful acts that target specially protected California citizens like seniors and veterans.

The Complaint alleges the scheme impacts California businesses as well, including (1) car manufacturers and dealers (by systematically lowering the market value of their vehicles); (2) gap insurance providers (whose “gap insurance” policies must make up the difference between an outstanding loan amount and undervalued amount paid); (3) automobile loan institutions (i.e., when underpaid car owners can no longer pay their car loans); and (4) car repair facilities (that lose out on potential repair business when vehicles are systematically totaled instead of repaired).

“Public safety includes protecting consumers from powerful companies that seek only to maximize profits,” said District Attorney Pamela Price. “We are seeking to level the playing field for vehicle owners who face what looks like a rigged game when their car or truck is totaled because a loss of a vehicle can destabilize a person’s life.”

Alameda County residents who believe their insurance company may have undervalued their totaled vehicle may complete a Consumer Fraud Complaint Form with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Consumer Justice Bureau. A link to that complaint form is here: Alameda County District Attorney Consumer Complaint Form.

 

Contact: damedia@acgov.org

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is one of California’s largest prosecutors’ offices and is led by Alameda County’s first Black woman District Attorney Pamela Y. Price. Price brings her vision to this office to fairly administer justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities for every person who steps foot in Alameda County, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, or zip code. Price has been recognized as one of the most progressive prosecutors through her forward-thinking, innovative strategies to interrupt cycles of violence and crime and bring change to a criminal justice system rooted in systemic racism. Follow Madam DA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and @AlamedaCountyda on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.