MARTINEZ — An Oakland man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend amid a custody battle is acting as his own attorney while he stands trial and faces charges that could see him jailed for life without parole .
Ramello D. Randle, 27, is charged with first-degree murder and special circumstances for lying in wait in the July 2020 shooting of 24-year-old Jonaye Lahkel Bridges. He is accused of secretly attaching a tracking device to Bridge’s car, then following her to a 7-Eleven in Antioch and pounding bullets into her friend’s vehicle, killing her and wounding her male companion.
Randle’s co-defendant Christopher Slaughter accepted a plea deal last month and admitted his involvement in the murder by driving Randle to the area. Randle has already indicated that he will blame Slaughter for the murder.
The allegation of special circumstances qualifies Randle for life in prison with no possibility of parole if convicted. With the stakes so high, Randle has given up his court-appointed attorney and will defend himself against the charges. He has already openly clashed with Contra Costa Judge Charles “Ben” Burch, including on the first day of the trial when Randle accused MPs at Martinez prison of misplacing important legal documents and then interrupted the prosecutors’ opening statement.
“He’s making this all up,” Randle said while Contra Costa Assistant District Attorney Kevin Bell spoke at the start of Tuesday’s trial. “Slaughter did that…that’s why you don’t want the jury not hearing about Slaughter.”
Burch then admonished the jury that he actually allowed Randle to use Slaughter’s possible involvement as a positive defense. Then he turned to Randle.
“I have told you several times that I do not want you to make editorial comments. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve asked you not to make editorial comments,” Burch said, adding that Randle would get his chance to respond.
“As?” Randle asked.
“When it’s your turn,” Burch shot back.
Randle later declined to make an opening statement, saying he would do so after prosecutors dropped their case. On Tuesday morning, outside of the jury’s presence, Randle lamented the loss of a pile of important paperwork and accused prison deputies of abusively manipulating his legal documents and writings.
“It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last,” Randle said. Burch said he would give Randle the 90-minute lunch break to refine his opening statement after realizing the trial had already been delayed by a day while MPs searched for the missing files.
When the jury had waited a day and a half in the halls of the courthouse and they entered the courtroom, Bell greeted them and said the case would be about Randle “who is trying to use technology to commit the perfect crime.” He said Randle bought a GPS tracker online and attached it to Bridge’s car and then texted Slaughter about it.
“I put a tracker on the B–car we’re getting tonight,” Randle texted Slaughter, according to Bell. He later added, “He believed Mrs Bridges was unfit to be a mother and should not have custody of his own child.”
Bridges had given birth to the couple’s child just months earlier, but things quickly went awry, Bell said. He said they both had restraining orders against each other and that Randle was due for a home visit from Children and Family Services just hours after the shooting.
Bell showed the jury surveillance footage of the 7-Eleven at 2301 Buchanan Road in Antioch showing a masked gunman in a sweater walking towards him and firing a pistol. Eighteen bullets hit two parked cars, Bell said, hitting Bridges and her friend multiple times. The friend, a local security guard who sometimes met Bridges after working in the area, was hit in the arm and survived.
Before the shooting, Bell said Slaughter allegedly went to the store to buy Gatorades, but was actually surveying the area in preparation for the shooting, Bell claimed. He said the two used the GPS tracker to follow Bridges from Oakland to Antioch.
“It’s a pretty long stretch from Oakland to Antioch for a couple of Gatorades,” Bell said.
Before the shooting, Randle searched online for things like “what makes a gas tank explode” and “will my bullets explode if I put them in gas”. He then reportedly searched for “murders in Antioch, California.” Randle shook his head as Bell described these alleged searches. When Bell said Randle’s handprint was removed from the murder weapon – which was found in Slaughter’s car shortly after the shooting – Randle scoffed loudly.