Triple homicide suspect doesn’t enter a plea

A 61-year-old San Jose woman who’s charged with three counts of murder for the shooting and stabbing deaths of a teenage man and two women in East Oakland last Friday made a brief appearance in court Thursday but delayed entering a plea for at least three weeks.

Dana Rivers, who’s being held without bail and was dressed in a red jail uniform, nodded her head but didn’t say anything when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Desautels told her to return to court on Dec. 8 to enter a plea if she and her attorney are prepared to do so at that time.

Deputy Public Defender Sam Yun, who appeared on Rivers’ behalf today, said his office will represent Rivers, although another attorney will represent her at her future court appearances.

Rivers, a former Sacramento school teacher, gained national attention when she had a sex change operation and became a woman in the 1990s.

In addition to the three murder charges, Rivers is charged with the special circumstance of committing multiple murders, as arson of an inhabited structure or property and possession of metal knuckles.

She’s accused of killing 19-year-old Toto M. Diambu, who was also known as Benny Diambu Wright, 57-year-old Patricia Wright and 56-year-old Charlotte Reed.

Oakland police said Wright was covered with blood and was about to flee when she was arrested by officers who responded to reports of gunfire at a house in the 9400 block of Dunbar Drive at about 12:30 a.m. on Friday.

Authorities said Rivers tried to set the house on fire but the blaze was confined to the garage area and was quickly controlled.

Police said Diambu was found shot to death in front of the house and Wright and Reed were found dead inside. Wright and Reed had both been stabbed and shot, according to police.

Oakland police Officer Hector Jimenez wrote in a probable cause statement that officers found ammunition and knives in her pockets when they searched her.

As officers were detaining Rivers she “began making spontaneous statements about her involvement in the murders,” Jimenez said.

Diambu graduated last spring from the Berkeley High School Academy of Medicine and Public Service, according to Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Charles Burress.

About 100 people remembered Diambu at a vigil at the high school on Monday, Burress said.

Wright worked for the school district from 2006 to 2015, beginning as a deaf interpreter and then becoming a special education teacher at King Middle School in Berkeley, Burress said.

After she retired last year, she became an elementary school teacher at Berkeley Arts Magnet School, he said.

Wright also worked part-time as a computer prep teacher at Esperanza Elementary School in Oakland, according to Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki.

Rivers was born as David Warfield but in 1999 she told her employer, the Center Unified School District in the Sacramento area, that she was transgender and planned to live as a woman.

Rivers was asked to leave her job after a small group of parents complained about her and later became a spokeswoman for transgender issues.