SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A Sonoma County jury on Sept. 28 convicted Joshua Begley of all charges in connection with the stabbing murder of Rohnert Park custom guitar maker Taku Sakashita in his workshop on Feb. 11.
Begley, 29, was convicted of felony first-degree murder during the commission of a robbery as well as robbery, second-degree burglary, evading a police officer, and a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest in connection with an incident in Petaluma three days before the murder.
As the court clerk who read the verdicts said, “Guilty of first-degree murder,” Begley said, “Wow,” turned toward his family in the courtroom, waved and said, “Bye.”
“I’m not the one responsible for these f-ing crimes,” Begley said before he slammed his open hand on the defense table and stood up. Bailiffs immediately pulled his arms behind his back, handcuffed him and bent him over the table.
The courtroom was cleared, jurors were taken to another room, and five sheriff’s deputies, some wearing blue latex gloves, arrived with a wheelchair.
Within 20 minutes, the reading of the verdict resumed with Begley restrained in a wheel chair. His legs had been shackled during the trial, which began Aug. 25. Jury deliberations began Sept. 24.
After the verdicts were read, Begley requested a separate trial to prove he has two prior state prison convictions in January 2001 and January 2006. The same jury was set to hear the case starting at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 5.
The seven women and five men on the jury also agreed Begley personally used a knife and inflicted great bodily injury.
Sakashita’s widow Kazuko was present in court during the verdict and was immediately led away by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office after the verdicts were read.
Dan Doherty, a friend of Sakashita’s family, said the verdicts bring relief, but there is no celebration.
“The devastation and suffering caused by this senseless act of violence is far-reaching, affecting foremost Taku’s wife, to whom he was entirely devoted, as well as scores of friends who span the globe,” Doherty said.
Sakashita, 43, known professionally as Sakashta, was stabbed 11 times in the head, chest, neck and hand. Rohnert Park police found his body around 4 a.m. Feb. 12 in bushes outside his business at 643 Martin Ave. after his wife reported he did not come home from work.
Sakashita’s fanny pack containing a wallet with cash, an ATM card, cell phone and a set of keys were missing and were never found.
Police found a jacket with a bloody knife in one pocket and a black glove with a yellow stripe in another draped over Sakashita’s body. A matching glove was found in Begley’s Jeep Cherokee.
Police also found a boot print in a swath of blood that was left when Sakashita’s body was dragged across the floor of the workshop.
Begley was arrested at his ex-girlfriend Sheryl Bishop’s Rohnert Park, Calif. apartment after a police pursuit on Feb. 15.
Police testified at the trial they found a pair of boots on the apartment porch. The prosecution said Sakashita’s DNA was present in blood found on the boots.
Begley testified he found the boots on Feb. 12 when he was “dumpster diving” on Martin Avenue and left them at Bishop’s apartment to dry out.
He said he found a black glove with a yellow stripe in one of the boots, and he put it in his Jeep. He said the jacket found on Sakashita’s body was not his, and he denied ever seeing the bloody knife found in the pocket.
Begley also testified he was at his friend Steven Van Leuven’s Rohnert Park house at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 11 when the murder occurred. Sakashita was on the telephone with someone in Japan when he was attacked.
Van Leuven testified he could not be certain Begley was with him that night.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Tashawn Sanders also showed a surveillance video of a vehicle resembling a Jeep Cherokee in the Martin Avenue area at the time of the slaying.
At least one witness testified Begley was seen near the workshop at the time of the murder, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said.
Begley’s attorney, Charles Ogulnik, told the jury in his closing statement the prosecution’s evidence was circumstantial and therewas no evidence linking Begley to the knife used in the killing and the items missing from Sakashita’s fanny pack.