4th Craigslist killing suspect ID'd; others plead not guilty

4th Craigslist killing suspect ID'd; others plead not guilty »Play Video
Clabon T. Berniard
TACOMA, Wash. - The Pierce County Sheriff's Office has identified the fourth suspect in the Craigslist killing as a 23-year-old SeaTac man.

A nationwide arrest warrant has been issued for Clabon Terrel Berniard on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault.

Berniard is suspected of involvement in an April 28 robbery-turned-homicide at a home in Edgewood in which four suspects posed as buyers interested in a ring advertised for sale on the Craigslist website.

Once inside the home, the suspects shot dead the homeowner, 43-year-old Jim Sanders, and stole the ring and other valuables.

Ironically, police had previously hailed Berniard as a hero for helping save two people from a house fire in Skyway on Jan. 25, 2007. Clabon had moved to Seattle from New Orleans after his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Berniard is described as a black male, 5-foot-11-inches, with black hair and brown eyes, weighing about 200 pounds. He is known to frequent the Seattle, Kent and SeaTac areas.

Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's Office said detectives had tentatively identified Berniard as the fourth suspect but weren't positive until one of the other suspects in the case coughed up his name.

"When we laid out who we thought he was, they cracked - we got the information we needed to get the warrant," Troyer said.

Troyer added a word of warning for anyone who could be helping Berniard elude police.

"They'll be going with us - they'll be arrested, and we would expect them to be charged," he said.

Meanwhile, the other three people charged in the home-invasion robbery all pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday.

Joshua Nathan Reese, 20, and Kiyoshi Alan Higashi, 22, both of Tacoma, made their pleas in a Redwood City, Calif., courtroom. Both were captured during a traffic stop in Daly City, just outside of San Francisco.

Both broke down and cried as they entered the courtroom. Reese buried his face in his hands and had to take a break before continuing with the hearing.

The judge ordered both be held without bail. The two have waived extradition and will be transferred to Washington.

In Pierce County Superior Court, 21-year-old Amanda Knight of Sumner was also teary-eyed as her lawyer entered her not guilty plea on her behalf.

Amanda Knight

Knight was arrested during the same traffic stop but posted bail before detectives connected the three to the killings. She turned herself in again on Tuesday evening in Sumner after her photo was released to the media.

Judge Patrick Oishi ordered her held on $2 million bail.

All three have been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and assault in connection with the April 28 shooting.

Sanders was shot to death at his home after letting in a group of people who said they were considering purchasing a diamond ring Sanders had listed on the Craigslist website.

Detectives believe Sanders was shot three times while trying to protect his teenage son, who tried to fight back against the robbers.

According to court documents, sheriff's deputies received a tip from someone who said Higashi called his father from jail in California and said police there confiscated a handgun used in the Edgewood murder.

The tipster told investigators that Knight went to the Sanders house to pretend to buy the ring, and that Reese pistol-whipped James' son.

According to the documents, the tipster said Higashi told his family that the deadly robbery "wasn't supposed to go that way."

After court let out Wednesday, Jim Sander's widow Charlene implored those accused to find religion.

"Turn your life over to Christ," Charlene Sanders said. "Because that is the only way that I am going to be able to go through life is my faith."

Kiyoshi Higashi's sister Jacqueline said Wednesday she doesn't believe her brother would ever choose to kill someone.

"If they get convicted of it, it's not because of their choice," she said. "I think they got influenced by Amanda or whoever else they were hanging out with."

In the meantime, she says it's tough dealing with the thought of her brother in such trouble.

"It's sad, especially if it's your own family," she said. "I never thought my family or friends would be involved in something like this.

Knight's next court appearance is scheduled for June 24.