Oakland man convicted of murdering roommate

OAKLAND (BCN) -- A man who was previously convicted of manslaughter for killing a roommate in Oakland in 1995 has now been convicted of first-degree murder for fatally stabbing another roommate in unincorporated Hayward in February 2012.

An Alameda County Superior Court jury deliberated for two days before announcing its verdict late Thursday against 57-year-old Michael Wyatt for the death of James Nobles, 59, at a cramped apartment in the 700 block of Hampton Road in unincorporated Hayward on Feb. 8, 2012.

Wyatt faces up to 51 years to life in state prison when he's sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon on April 17.

Wyatt's attorney, Bonnie Narby, admitted in her opening statement that Wyatt killed Nobles but said Wyatt acted in the heat of passion because Nobles had mental problems and had been driving him crazy.

Narby said the two men had been roommates for about 18 months but Wyatt snapped because Nobles, who suffered from schizophrenia and psychosis, had been engaging in "strange" behavior, such as hissing and talking in "a nonsensical way" for weeks, especially late at night.

She said Nobles "wasn't violent but when he was psychotic he was aggressive and would strike out and hit" people.

Narby said the fatal stabbing "happened in a split second" and Wyatt didn't intend to kill Nobles and is "remorseful" for his actions.

But prosecutor Warren Ko said the jury's verdict shows that it rejected the defense's argument that Wyatt shouldn't be convicted of murder because he was provoked by Nobles.

Ko said Nobles' behavior "was annoying" but he said Nobles actions "didn't rise to a level of provocation that would justify Wyatt stabbing him eight times, tying him up, placing him in a garbage can and dumping his body.

Nobles' bloodied body was found next to a cyclone fence under elevated BART tracks, near Hampton Road and Western Boulevard in unincorporated Hayward, about two blocks away from the apartment he shared with Wyatt.

Investigators found the body at about 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2012, the day after authorities think he was killed. He didn't have any identification on him but was identified by his fingerprints.

To try to prove his contention that Wyatt intended to kill Nobles, Ko presented evidence of an incident on July 15, 1995, in which Wyatt fatally shot another roommate, 29-year-old Titus Crowder, at an apartment they shared in the 600 block of Wesley Street in Oakland.

Ko said Wyatt, who was convicted of manslaughter and served 10 years in state prison, fired nine shots at Crowder after what he said was "a silly argument over who was bothering whom."

The prosecutor said the two incidents are similar in that Crowder and Nobles were both killed in the living room of the apartments they shared with Wyatt. Wyatt claimed that the reason he killed Crowder is that Crowder had been "acting weird."

But Narby said she thinks the deaths of Crowder and Wyatt "aren't similar at all" and doesn't believe Ko's attempt to link them proves his contention that Wyatt intended to kill Nobles.

Narby said Wyatt and Crowder got into an argument because Crowder had borrowed money from Wyatt and said Wyatt fired shots only after Crowder pulled out a gun and Wyatt was able to pull it away from him.

Wyatt faces up to 51 years to life in state prison when he's sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon on April 17.