Pair sentenced after killing man during high-speed crash

Two ex-convicts were sentenced today to lengthy state prison terms for killing an innocent driver in Newark four years ago in a car crash while they were fleeing from police at speeds of up to 80 mph after they committed a burglary.

Jabrie Watts, 25, who has addresses in Oakland and Hayward, and Deshon Collier, 25, who has lived in San Leandro, Union City and Hayward, were charged with murder for the death of 69-year-old Robert Louis Cheney of Pleasanton on Jan. 18, 2012, but during their trial in March they both pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Watts, who also pleaded guilty to first-degree residential burglary, was sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dan Grimmer to 29 years and 4 months in state prison and Collier was sentenced to 12 years.

Newark police said the incident began shortly before 10 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2012, when they responded to a report of a home burglary on Mistflower Avenue. A witness reported seeing three people kick down his neighbor’s door and enter the home, police said.

The witness gave police a description of the intruders and their car, a Chevrolet Impala, and police spotted the car driving away from the neighborhood.

Officers tried to pull it over, but the driver accelerated south on Cedar Boulevard at speeds of nearly 80 mph and police said they discontinued the chase because it was too dangerous.

The driver continued speeding away, then crashed into a Honda at Cherry Street and Mowry Avenue. Cheney, who was driving the Honda, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspects’ car overturned and Watts and Collier ran away but were soon apprehended.

Watts and Collier abandoned the third suspect, 20-year-old Rajwaun Watkins, an Oakland resident who was trapped underneath the Impala unconscious with a severe head injury. Watkins was transported to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and died from his injuries two days later.

Newark police Detective David Higbee said in a probable cause statement that the Impala that the suspects used was rented by Collier’s mother.

The suspects stole jewelry and a watch in the burglary at the home on Mistflower Avenue, Higbee said.

Watts has prior convictions for attempted second-degree robbery and second-degree commercial burglary and Collier has a prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

Police said Watkins also had a prior criminal record.