Trial begins for Vacaville double-homicide

By From page A4 | May 15, 2014

Richard R. Calkins

Richard R. Calkins

FAIRFIELD — What is undisputed is that Richard R. Calkins shot and killed two friends and shot another friend in the face on the night of Nov. 16, 2010.

What is disputed is why he picked up a semi-automatic .40-caliber gun and fired eight shots in about 10 seconds after spending the evening using drugs and partying with his friends at his William Drive apartment.

“I’ll say this several times – conscious, caring people who love each other don’t consciously kill their friends,” Calkins’ defense attorney Oscar Bobrow told jurors in opening statements Wednesday after three days of jury selection.

Bobrow told jurors that the shooting was preceded by no arguments, animosity or disagreements. Bobrow told jurors that in the upcoming weeks – the trial is expected to take a month – they will hear from two expert witnesses who will say Calkins was stoned on psilocybin mushrooms, had a break from reality and suffered from a psychosis caused by the drug.

Bobrow told jurors the mushrooms caused Calkins to act unconsciously and therefore Calkins lacked the mental state for malice and perhaps lacked even the mental state to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The defense attorney told jurors that Calkins had been playing violent video games that include “Grand Theft Auto” and “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare” in the hours before the brief, bloody rampage. Bobrow played excerpts from both video games, showing a gunman’s point of view as the player repeatedly goes through frenzied, gory simulated killings.

Calkins, then 18, and his victims had all taken the mushrooms earlier in the night. The euphoria and laughter ended abruptly, just before 2 a.m. Richard M. Perez, 20, and Cameron S. Silva, 21, were both shot in the head. Sarah J. Berkheimer, 21, was shot twice in the face. She survived.

The victims’ families filled much of the courtroom gallery during the opening statements.

The prosecutor, Robert Hightower, recalled the shootings for jurors, describing them as calculated, targeted and methodical.

Calkins was in the kitchen with Perez when he shot him once in the head before he stood over his friend’s dying body and fired a second shot into his head, the prosecutor told jurors. Silva heard the first shot, got up from a couch, where he was with Berkheimer, and stuck his head around the corner, peering into the kitchen. He was shot in the head, but made his way back to the couch before Calkins walked up and shot Berkheimer and then shot Silva again before leaving the apartment.

Hightower will begin the prosecution case against Calkins when the trial resumes Thursday. One of his first witnesses is expected to be Berkheimer.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

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