A former prostitute testified Wednesday in San Jose that a defendant in the 2012 murder of a Monte Sereno man made incriminating statements both before and after a home invasion robbery that ended in the victim's death by asphyxiation.
Katrina Fritz, on the stand for a second day as a prosecution witness in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said that murder defendant Marcellous Drummer asked her if the victim had gold at his home prior to the robbery and later told her things that tied him to the crime scene.
Drummer is on trial separately from co-defendants DeAngelo Austin, who is Fritz's brother, and Javier Garcia, in the slaying of Raveesh Kumra, 66, the former owner of a Saratoga winery.
Kumra choked to death while gagged by duct tape in an early morning robbery of cash, collectable coins, jewelry and other valuables from his home on a large Monte Sereno estate on Nov. 30, 2012.
Fritz, who was also charged in Kumra's murder, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to charges of robbery with gang enhancements and false imprisonment, avoiding murder charges, to get a sentence of at most 17 years as part of plea deal for her testimony against the three men.
Prosecutors claim that Austin, Garcia and Drummer entered Kumra's home based on information supplied by Fritz, including a drawing of the man's home and where to find a side door to sneak inside.
Under questioning today from Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith, Fritz testified that Drummer said to her before the robbery "I'll bet you they have a lot of gold" and when she asked him why he wanted to know, he replied "You know how much gold is worth now?"
Austin planned the robbery and Drummer was present when she met with them after agreeing to help them locate Kumra's estate and describe the rooms inside his home, Fritz said.
In November 2012, Austin contacted Fritz, a longtime prostitute in the Bay Area who also worked in Texas, by phone to tell her he wanted to rob Kumra, to whom Fritz had provided sexual services from 1999 to 2011, the witness testified.
She said that in the hours before the robbery, she met in Oakland with Austin and Drummer and told her brother "not to do too much" when robbing Kumra, to which she said Drummer "told me he got this."
Fritz said that she drove to her home in Pittsburg and went out to dinner with her boyfriend when Austin called her two or three times, finally from Kumra's estate, telling her "he was going in," and she commanded that he stop calling her.
"I didn't want to be part of it," Fritz said.
The next day, Fritz said she heard a news report about a homicide that followed a home invasion and "I immediately thought" it might be Kumra.
She called Austin's girlfriend, who reported that Austin was asleep and with her in San Francisco, Fritz said.
When she got her brother on the phone, they used code words, with Austin saying he was "coming across the bridge," and they eventually met for brunch at the HS Lordship's restaurant in Berkeley.
Drummer showed up with Austin and Austin's girlfriend and both men shook their heads to discourage her from asking about the previous night in front of the girlfriend and Fritz's boyfriend, Fritz said.
Fritz said she got up from the table, met briefly alone with
Drummer and after asking him what happened at Kumra's, she said Drummer replied "s--- went bad" and when she told him that Kumra was dead, she said Drummer said, "I know."
Upon returning to the table, Austin slipped her $2,000 in cash underneath it, but under questioning from Smith, Fritz insisted that it was not a fee for the robbery and that Austin often gave her money.
After eating, Fritz, Austin and Drummer spoke together in the parking lot out of earshot of the others and Austin told her that the episode at Kumra's "went all bad" and that the victim's wife Harinder had screamed "just take whatever he owes you, he'll pay, just don't hurt him," Fritz said.
Fritz claimed that Drummer then told Fritz, regarding Kumra, "I just sat there and like watched him" during the robbery.
Fritz said she warned both men that the police would be involved and "it's going to be bad," to which she said Drummer replied, "Don't worry, you won't do time for it, we'll confess to it. Don't trip."
When she asked the pair if they still had some of the items from the robbery, Austin said they got rid of them all at "an Asian pawn shop in San Francisco," and Drummer then said, "It's gone."
Later, she said she agreed with Austin's request to hide $40,000 of cash at her Pittsburg home.
In another meeting with Austin and Drummer in December 2012, they discussed two people who had been arrested in connection with the robbery and murder of Kumra, a prostitute that Kumra had used named Raven Dixon arrested that Dec. 18 and a person none of them knew, Lukis Anderson, arrested that Dec. 26.
Fritz quoted Drummer as saying "it ain't us" in response to others being arrested, and "somebody must be talking."
On Dec. 27, 2012 police arrested Garcia and on Dec. 29 Austin in connection with the robbery-homicide.
Prior to her arrest in February 2013, Fritz said she was in Texas to provide sexual services for a client, when Drummer called about how to put money on Austin's account in the county jail and get a letter to him.
While in custody, she said she lied to authorities about her knowledge of the crimes, but after she was accused of murder, saw how strong the case was and that she could get a possible death sentence, Fritz said that early this year she asked her lawyer to seek a deal for lesser charges and a lighter sentence in exchange for her testimony.
Drummer was not known as a suspect and it was Fritz who identified him to Los Gatos/Monte Sereno police as an alleged accomplice in the robbery and murder, Fritz testified.
Based on the plea deal, Fritz testified last month in preliminary hearings on Drummer in May and Austin and Garcia in September. The trials for Austin and Garcia are pending.
Austin, Garcia and Drummer were all members of different street gangs based in Oakland at the time of Kumra's death, according to prosecutors.
Smith finished his questioning of Fritz today and she could be cross-examined Thursday by Drummer's attorney James Blackman.