Pleasanton boyfriend guilty in grisly killing of law student

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

ALAMEDA, Calif. – An Alameda County jury on Monday found a Pleasanton boyfriend guilty of second-degree murder after dismembering his girlfriend and disposing of her body on an Alameda shoreline.

Joseph C. Roberts, 43, faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced June 14 for killing Rachel Elizabeth Imani Buckner, 27. His sentencing is scheduled for June 14.

“Today means that I can breathe a little bit easier, but I know it’s not over,” Buckner’s mother, S. Jamila Buckner, said after the guilty verdict came down. “What today’s verdict means for me is that I don’t have to look over my shoulder for right now. I’ve lived in trauma and terror.

Authorities said Roberts never reported Buckner missing and instead started talking with three other women. 

“There was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt based on DNA evidence and other circumstantial evidence,” said District Attorney Pamela Price. 

Price, who made it a priority not to let cases languish, noted that this murder case moved very quickly through the criminal justice system.

“We appreciate that the case was speedily disposed of relative to the normal course of cases in our system, and we believe justice has been served,” Price said.

Family and friends said Pleasanton police missed warning signs about Roberts during earlier visits. 

“They should have arrested him on the spot, regardless of what she said,” said S. Jamila Buckner said. “We watched body-cam footage of them chatting it up as he was beating her down!”

Family friend Judith Klain said, “Seventeen times the police came out and did barely anything. This is an injustice that should never have happened.”

The jury began deliberating Wednesday.

Buckner’s body was found wrapped in plastic and duct tape on July 20 near the Bay Farm shoreline in Alameda. Court documents revealed that her head, hands, and feet were severed from her body.

Her identity had been unknown until Aug. 29 after an autopsy was completed and DNA evidence processed. Roberts was arrested about a week later and remained behind bars.

The victim’s mother called for more police training in responding to domestic violence cases.

“The first time my daughter called, they should have looked in the records. If they looked in the records they would have seen that Joseph Roberts came and beat the hell out of me and my mother,” she said. “He was a dangerous man, even before she first called.”

Roberts and Buckner met at Golden Gate University School of Law, where they both were students. The couple had an apartment in Pleasanton and were engaged to be married.

Buckner’s family said that at the time of her death she was two months shy of earning her law degree.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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