Transgender activist faces triple murder charges
A transgender activist and former teacher was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on three counts of murder for the shooting and stabbing deaths of a teenage man and two women in East Oakland in November 2016.
Dana Rivers, 63, of San Jose, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on March 21 to have her trial date set.
Rivers, a former Sacramento schoolteacher, gained national attention when she had a sex change operation and became a woman in the 1990s.
In addition to the three murder charges, at the end of a preliminary hearing Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer ordered Rivers to face a jury on the special circumstance allegation that she committed multiple murders and on charges of 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 who came to the gruesome scene said Rivers was covered with blood, was holding a gasoline canister 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 Nov. 11, 2016.
Authorities described the area as a quiet residential neighborhood.
Police 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.
Officers found ammunition and knives in Rivers’ pockets when they searched her, Oakland police Officer Hector Jimenez wrote in a probable cause statement.
As officers were detaining Rivers, she “began making spontaneous statements about her involvement in the murders,” Jimenez wrote.
Wright and Reed were married, according to their Facebook pages.
A motive for the three homicides wasn’t disclosed during Rivers’ preliminary hearing but prosecutors said it will be revealed at her trial, which may not take place for several years since she could face the death penalty and the attorneys in the case need time to prepare.
Diambu graduated in spring 2016 from the Berkeley High School Academy of Medicine and Public Service.
Wright worked for the Berkeley Unified School District from 2006 to 2015, beginning as a deaf interpreter and then becoming a special education teacher at King Middle School in Berkeley. After she retired, she became an elementary school teacher at Berkeley Arts Magnet School.
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 Joint 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 she later became a spokeswoman for transgender issues.