DA files murder charges against deputy for Dublin double homicide | September 16, 2022 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - September 16, 2022

DA files murder charges against deputy for Dublin double homicide

Court docs describe more details from crime scene, reveal claim of romantic relationship between suspect and married victim

by Jeremy Walsh

A young Alameda County sheriff's deputy faces two counts of murder as well as several special allegations and the prospect of death-penalty consideration in connection with the brutal slayings of a couple in their Dublin house last week.

Documents filed with the court by prosecutors last Friday morning include new details about the scene and circumstances of the double homicide in the neighborhood in East Dublin, including descriptions of kill shots to the victims' heads and necks and the contention from the suspect's family that he had been involved in a romantic relationship with the married female victim.

"Our hearts and condolences go out to the family, friends and community of the two victims killed in this incident," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in a statement after her office submitted the criminal complaint.

Devin Williams Jr., 24, of Stockton was scheduled to appear in Alameda County Superior Court in Dublin for entry of plea this week, with results pending as of press time. It was not immediately clear if he is yet represented by an attorney.

Williams, a sheriff's deputy of one year who is now in the process of being fired after his arrest, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the Sept. 7 shooting deaths of 42-year-old Maria Tran and her husband Benison Tran, 57.

The defendant also faces special allegations related to gun use and great bodily injury inflicted on both victims, as well as special circumstances for multiple murders and murder to avoid arrest. Special circumstances murders are eligible for the death penalty, though a decision about whether to pursue a capital case are typically made after the preliminary hearing.

The double homicide has left the Dublin community and his department reeling with almost as many questions as answers.

"Just a horrific day today, and a really dark day in the sheriff's office," Alameda County Sheriff's Office Lt. Ray Kelly told the Weekly that day.

"I am heartbroken over the tragedy that occurred in Dublin early this morning," Mayor Melissa Hernandez said in a statement Sept. 7. "There is now a child without a mother and father. Dublin Police are working with the family to see how they can help throughout the grieving process."

The violent scene inside the Colebrook Lane house, just off Fallon Road, and the investigative aftermath were described in a probable cause declaration written by Officer Riley Walter of Dublin Police Services, filed with the court as justification for Williams' arrest.

Police received a call from people in the home at 12:45 a.m. Sept. 7 reporting someone inside and then shots being fired, according to Walter.

"The reporting party called 911, and someone they did not know was inside their residence. One of the residents picked up the phone and advised the suspect was armed with a firearm, and the suspect shot his sister and his brother-in-law. The reporting party advised the suspect left the scene in a vehicle," Walter wrote.

Officers arrived to find a husband and wife -- later identified as the Trans -- with gunshot wounds to their heads and necks. Both were pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after, according to Walter.

Multiple family members were present during the shooting. "When deputies arrived, they heard an unknown family member say, 'Devin' and 'He is a cop,' according to Walter.

Kelly previously confirmed that the couple's 14-year-old child, as well as Maria Tran's mother and brother were in the house that night.

Dublin Police Services, which is the lead investigative agency in the case, is staffed by deputies of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office under the city of Dublin's contract with the county to provide police services.

Williams worked for the sheriff's office and was assigned to the courthouse and jail operations, not a patrol beat. He worked a scheduled shift at the courthouse in Oakland from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 6, and then picked up extra hours at the jail in Dublin from 5-11 p.m., according to Kelly. Detectives were continuing to investigate what Williams was doing between 11 p.m. and the time of the shooting.

During their subsequent investigation, officers spoke with Williams' family and his father told detectives that Williams "had been in a dating relationship with the female victim (Maria Tran) and had been to their residence in Stockton," Walter said. The circumstances of that apparent relationship were not immediately clear.

In the wake of the discovery on Colebrook Lane, detectives reviewed license plate reader camera data from the neighborhood and observed a gray Volkswagen Jetta registered to Williams driving near the crime scene one minute after the shooting, according to Walter.

Additionally, detectives allegedly found six shell casings with "Speer 9mm" inscribed on them -- the same type of ammunition used by the sheriff's office. Kelly previously reported investigators believed Williams likely used his department-issued service weapon during the crime and discarded it in the Altamont Pass area outside of Livermore while fleeing.

According to Walter, detectives later created a photo lineup and two separate witnesses identified Deputy Williams as the shooter. The 24-year-old remained on the lam for nearly 12 hours Sept. 7.

For some period in the investigation, police were able to use cellphone tracking data and GPS to discover Williams was traveling toward Southern California, but the signal was lost, according to Kelly.

Then, as police and sheriff's officials prepared for an 11:30 a.m. press conference on Sept. 7, Dublin Police Services' front desk answered a phone call from Williams, according to Kelly. The lieutenant and Dublin Police Chief Garrett Holmes were on the phone with the at-large deputy for 46 minutes, and he ultimately agreed to pull over and surrender.

Holmes' conversation with Williams was "a game-changer ... good, solid police work at a critical moment," as officers were concerned the fleeing deputy might harm others or himself, according to Kelly. "Chief Holmes was able to connect with Mr. Williams in a way that was crucial to de-escalate and bring down the tempo of Mr. Williams."

Walter confirmed Williams was arrested near Coalinga, some 147 miles from the crime scene, after surrendering without further incident to the California Highway Patrol in the same Volkswagen seen by the license plate camera.

"Williams' issued duty weapon box, and some of his safety gear, including Speer ammunition, was inside his car. Red matter believed to be blood was also inside the vehicle," according to Walter.

The suspect did not speak with investigators after his arrest, invoking his constitutional right to remain silent, according to Walter.

He was booked on the evening of Sept. 7 into the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin -- where he had worked an overtime shift that ended less than two hours before the shooting. Kelly said Williams was served with notice of his pending release from sheriff's office employment after his arrest.

The court documents filed Friday did not elaborate further on the reported "dating relationship" between Williams and Maria Tran.

Maria Tran was a registered nurse, according to online records. Benison Tran's employment has not yet been confirmed. The Trans' trust purchased the house on Colebrook Lane about a year and a half ago, according to Tri-Valley home sales data reported by the Pleasanton Weekly in spring 2021.

The slayings were the first homicide (non-vehicular) in Dublin since rapper Lil Yase was killed on Nov. 28, 2020 after an overnight shooting. That case remains active with no suspects charged in court to date.

The last time an Alameda County sheriff's deputy faced homicide charges appears to have been the infamous Eric Wright case, which made national headlines and became fodder for true crime shows and articles.

Wright, a lieutenant and rising star in the department, vanished in the early 1980s and lived under a false name for years afterward before he was ultimately arrested in Mexico in 2002 for the 1980 death of gold dealer Lester Marks. Wright would later plead guilty to manslaughter.

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