Witness Turned Defendant: Latest Twist in 2021 Castro Valley, California Murder Case

Murder case where a Baby Yoda doll and AC Transit bus provided key evidence.

In a recent development in the 2021 murder case of San Leandro resident Benjamin Hemmann, Mashonna Yvonne Whittle, initially a key witness, has been charged as a co-defendant. Whittle, 35, now faces charges of murder and kidnapping to commit robbery, adding to the list of suspects that includes her husband, Kevin Woodruff, and two others, Brian Wu and Steven Hanna.

Hemmann, 37, was found deceased in September 2021 in Castro Valley, bound and gagged, allegedly with a dog leash. Whittle, who is currently held without bail, is also accused of first-degree residential burglary and identity theft.

Previously, Whittle provided testimony against her husband and the other defendants, who were arrested in spring 2022. They are accused of abducting Hemmann, restraining him, and eventually strangling him. Hanna, also known as Richard Onteveros, is alleged to have admitted to the murder, likening it to killing a dog.

A critical breakthrough in the investigation was video footage from an AC Transit bus that captured a Toyota Tacoma near the crime scene, identifiable by a distinctive Baby Yoda doll. Later, this doll, along with other incriminating items, was found in the vehicle following a police chase involving Hanna.

Whittle, according to court documents, claimed to have been in the vehicle during the incident but initially denied witnessing the crime. However, she later retracted her statement, attributing it to mental illness and alleged coercion by investigators. Evidence on Whittle’s phone linked her to Hemmann, including images of his personal documents and items stolen from his home.

Defense attorneys representing the accused men have criticized Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Nathan Feldman for his handling of the case, particularly his decision to charge Whittle, who had become uncooperative. They accused Feldman of coercion and deceptive practices, challenging the legitimacy of the prosecution’s strategy.

Judge Delia Trevino, while critical of Feldman’s approach, upheld the legal validity of his charging decisions.

Author: CrimeDoor

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