In the days after Balbir Boyal was shot and killed inside his east Modesto convenience store, investigators worked around the clock to identify who was responsible for a series of 2006 armed robberies that led to his death.
It was James Williams who first implicated Edward Deandre Mitchell in the string of robberies, some that ended with the robber shooting a clerk even after getting cash from the register. The violent robberies had terrorized the community for two months before Mitchell and another man were arrested.
Williams on Tuesday testified in the murder trial of Mitchell, accused of killing Boyal on June 7, 2006, at BK Liquors on North Riverside Drive in east Modesto.
On June 13, 2006, Williams was arrested on suspicion of robbing a convenience store in the 900 block of east Hatch Road in south Modesto the previous month. Williams at the time was evading his parole officer. A Stanislaus County sheriff’s investigator showed Williams a photo of himself committing the Hatch Road robbery.
Williams on Tuesday testified that he initially insisted Mitchell was responsible for the Hatch Road robbery. When the investigator suggested that Williams looked like the suspect in the series of Modesto convenience store robberies, he decided to admit he robbed the Hatch Road stores but not the others.
Mitchell and Laron Tavon Davis were arrested a few days later and charged with murder and several counts of robbery. Williams is serving 25 years in prison for the Hatch Road robbery.
In a February 2010 preliminary hearing, Davis said he and Mitchell were using ecstasy and were drunk when they decided to begin their robbery spree in April 2006. Davis testified he was the getaway driver in the robberies. Davis has agreed to a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against Mitchell.
David Headley, Micthell’s attorney, has told the jury that Williams is a heroin addict and member of a notorious Oakland street gang. The defense attorney has suggested that Davis lied to authorities to get his plea deal and avoid identifying Williams as the man responsible for the violent Modesto robberies
Williams had been released from prison on March 17, 2006, and he failed to report to his parole officer. “I was being stupid,” he testified. That’s when he was hanging around with Mitchell’s inner circle of friends in Modesto, who used to call themselves “Money Over B------.”
Williams said he was a member of the Oakland “Nutcase” gang, which had members known for committing robberies and gratuitous murders during some of those robberies.
He told the jury that some who lived in the Modesto area but claimed to have ties to Oakland looked up to the Nutcase gang members. Williams said Davis’ family used to live in the neighborhood where the gang was based, and Davis had relatives who associated with with Nutcase gang.