A man with a lengthy criminal record pleaded not guilty today to a murder charge stemming from an allegation that he beat his aunt to death in East Oakland last November. Christian Hall, 45, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on March 24 for a preliminary hearing. Hall admitted to Oakland police that he slapped and pushed his aunt, 59-year-old Melinda Thomas, in the 1900 block of 26th Avenue at about 6 p.m. on Nov. 22 but claimed “he was just playing with her as he always did,” according to a probable cause statement by Officer Jason Andersen.
The officer wrote in his statement that Hall said “he did not intentionally mean to kill Thomas.” Oakland police said investigators believe the alleged assault occurred after Hall and Thomas got into a verbal dispute. Andersen said Oakland firefighters who were responding to a report that a woman was spotted on the ground found Thomas unconscious and unresponsive on a sidewalk in the 1900 block of 26th Avenue shortly after 6 p.m. on Nov. 22. She was taken to a local hospital but was pronounced dead at 6:47 p.m. that night, he said.
A patrol officer who canvassed the 1900 block of 26th Avenue after Thomas died found a surveillance video which “clearly showed” Hall pushing Thomas, punching her in the face and dragging her against her will, according to Andersen. Thomas then collapsed to the ground and never regained consciousness after Hall gave her a final punch to her right side, Andersen said. Oakland police Sgt. Angelica Mendoza, who had had several prior contacts with Hall, was able to identify Hall as the suspect after she looked at the video, according to Andersen.
Hall was arrested in the 800 block of Kenyon Avenue in San Leandro six days after Thomas was killed. According to prosecutors, Hall has five prior convictions: two for offering to sell a controlled substance and one each for possession for sale of cocaine base, making criminal threats and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Those prior convictions could increase his sentence if he’s found guilty of murdering Thomas.
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