Byron DeCles to stand trial after stabbings at Berkeley home

After hearing evidence in the case, an Alameda County Superior Court judge reduced several of the charges against Byron DeCles.

Byron DeCles to stand trial after stabbings at Berkeley home
Byron DeCles faced attempted murder charges in connection with the attack at Greyhaven. Berkeley PD

A man who had been charged last year with trying to kill two relatives, including Berkeley author Diana Paxson, has been ordered to stand trial.

But after hearing some of the evidence in the case, an Alameda County Superior Court judge reduced and dismissed several of the charges against Byron DeCles.

DeCles, who is now 22 years old, is still facing one count of attempted murder in relation to his foster brother, Ian Grey, who was 55 at the time of the attack in December.

But the evidence presented did not support the claim that DeCles had tried to kill his 80-year-old grandmother, the judge said, reducing that charge to felony assault with a deadly weapon.

"There's no particular reason to believe Mr. DeCles had animus towards [her] other than that she was apparently in his way as he was trying to get to Mr. Grey," Judge Thomas Reardon said during the preliminary hearing. "That appeared to be what was happening."

Paxson, née Studebaker, did not testify during the brief hearing, according to a transcript that recently became available. The Scanner reviewed the transcript to write this story.

Berkeley writer Diana Paxson on the mend after stabbing
Paxson told The Scanner that what happened Friday had been the culmination of “a series of difficulties” with Byron DeCles over the past year.

The only people who took the stand during the May 28 hearing were Ian Grey and Nancy Giese, the other named victims in the case.

During a preliminary hearing, the judge reviews some of the evidence in the case to determine whether the prosecution has met the bar for it to proceed to trial.

But it's a low bar: The prosecution must prove only that the alleged crimes appear to have happened and that the defendant could be responsible.

Ian Grey testified first and described how he had been making spaghetti on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, because Fridays were "our usual spaghetti night."

He told the court that DeCles was the adoptive son of Grey's foster brother, and said he previously had to kick DeCles out of the house, dubbed Greyhaven, due to increasingly violent behavior.

The home, a known literary household in Berkeley, is located on El Camino Real near The Uplands.

At about 6:30 p.m., Grey and his mother, Diana, "heard a loud noise" from the front of the house.

As the pair walked from the kitchen into the hallway, they "collided with" DeCles at the foot of the stairs, he said.

"He had gotten entangled with her and the moment I walked out he locked eyes with me," Grey testified. "And he just started swinging his right arm with a knife."

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Grey said DeCles did not say anything but seemed to be "trying to move … through" his grandmother to get to Grey.

Grey saw the "wild stabs" of DeCles' knife hit Diana, he testified.

He was able to push his mother out of the way, then held up his arm, trying unsuccessfully to block the knife.

"I felt the blade enter several times into the back of my neck and scalp," Grey said. "I thought I had been stabbed in the skull."

It turned out he had been stabbed in the ear as well as in the back of the neck and head, he said, in addition to sustaining other slash wounds.

Greyhaven: New details emerge in attempted murder case
Byron DeCles, 21, has entered not-guilty pleas in relation to the charges against him, which include two counts of attempted murder.

Nancy Giese, 72, testified that she had been on her computer that night when she heard "thumps and bumps and yells" and ran downstairs.

"I heard a voice say, 'Byron is attacking Ian and he has a knife,'" she said. "I felt I had to do something to intervene."

She grabbed a flimsy ornament that was hanging in the foyer and struck DeCles from behind in the shoulder with it, she said.

Then DeCles pushed past her and ran up the stairs toward the front door, she said.

Ian Grey said DeCles didn't leave immediately. Instead, he grabbed a large piece of wood and threw it at Grey, dislocating his shoulder, he said.

The household had been using the plank to brace the door at night due to safety concerns about DeCles, who had been captured on Greyhaven's security cameras, he said.

After throwing the wooden plank, DeCles fled, Grey said.

"I do not recall him saying anything during the incident," he told the court.

Ian Grey was in the hospital for about two days, he said. His mother was released before him.

Initially, he had told first responders to focus on her wounds, in part because she seemed to be losing a substantial amount of blood.

Police later determined that Grey's wounds were actually more serious.

Grey also testified that, while Byron DeCles had lived for a period of time at Greyhaven, he'd been kicked out because "he kept taking my mother's car without permission."

DeCles had also attacked Grey in July of last year, Grey said, punching him in the back of the head.

"He had made his hostility towards Ian well known over the last few months," Nancy Giese said of DeCles.

During another incident, in October, DeCles had shown up at Greyhaven and randomly attacked "a friend of the house," causing head injuries, according to court testimony.

"It appeared like he didn't know why he was attacked," Giese said of the victim in that incident. "He seemed stunned."

She described calling police for help that day, and how she and her daughter had held a towel to the man's bleeding head as they waited for paramedics to arrive.

He ultimately needed eight staples and was left with a contusion to the eye, according to court papers.

But prosecutor Kevin Asvitt did not present any specifics about those injuries during the preliminary hearing.

He also did not present many details about Diana Paxson's injuries.

During brief closing arguments, public defender Russell Mangan argued that a number of the charges against his client should be reduced or dropped altogether.

"While there might be intent to cause injury," Mangan told the judge, "there's not enough that he was trying to kill anybody."

He also argued that there was "no evidence" anyone had intentionally pushed Giese and that the testimony about Count 4, the October attack, indicated a misdemeanor at best.

Prosecutor Asvitt said only that he believed both stabbings should be charged as attempted murder, in part because both victims were stabbed in the head and neck.

"I think [it] shows an intent not to just harm someone but to kill," he said.

Judge Reardon said that Ian Grey's injuries along with the testimony about prior conflicts between the men seemed to meet the standard for attempted murder.

But he said he did not believe the prosecution had met the bar in relation to Diana (Paxson) Studebaker. He reduced that count to felony assault with a deadly weapon.

The judge also dismissed the elder abuse charge related to Giese, noting that the contact — as described in court testimony — had seemed accidental.

DeCles is still facing a burglary charge from the Dec. 8 break-in as well as misdemeanor battery charges in relation to the attack on Ian Grey in July (which was reduced at the prelim from a felony) and the attack in October.

Prior to the preliminary hearing, the case was suspended for approximately five months for a mental health evaluation of DeCles, according to court records.

He was subsequently deemed competent and criminal proceedings resumed suddenly in May.

According to court records, DeCles is facing separate misdemeanor battery charges related to a domestic violence report in June of last year during which he struck his pregnant girlfriend in the head while they were at the hospital together.

The two had been dating for five years at the time, police wrote last year, and have a child together.

As of this week, DeCles remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of about $500,000, according to booking records.

He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing July 9.

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