OAKLAND -- A cellphone number, a recorded telephone call from jail and a conversation Evan Meisner had with a friend just hours before he was shot dead are the clues detectives used to find the 22-year-old's alleged killer, a prosecutor said this week.
The clues led police to Gregory Gadlin, a 45-year-old ex-convict who allegedly shot Meisner once in the face with a Taurus 9-mm Luger semiautomatic handgun and stole a quarter pound of marijuana that Meisner was attempting to sell him, Deputy District Attorney Greg Dolge said.
As the murder case against Gadlin began this week, Dolge told a jury of seven women and five men that every fact uncovered in the case points to Gadlin as the killer, even though no one witnessed the shooting and Gadlin and his family say he was asleep in bed when it occurred.
Meisner was found by his landlord in the house he rented at 4082 Lyon Ave. on the morning of March 31, 2011, lying face down in a pool of blood. He had been shot at close range, once in the head just below his left ear.
When police arrived, there were very few clues. Meisner's wallet, cellphone, keys and marijuana were missing. The only immediate clue was a neighbor's statement saying he heard a gunshot ring from the house about 1:30 a.m.
Once Meisner was identified, police questioned his friends and family and soon the clues started pouring in, Dolge said.
The first came from Meisner's friend who had dinner with the victim hours before he was killed. During dinner, Meisner revealed his plan to generate rent money by selling a quarter pound of marijuana to "a big black guy, a neighbor who recently got out of jail." The friend said that Meisner told him he was going to make the sale later that evening. Meisner, who Dolge said was marijuana smoker, received the quarter pound of pot from a friend he was helping with some work.
Homicide Detective Mike Gantt also got Meisner's cellphone number and immediately retrieved records from the provider. That information showed that Meisner's last calls were made to the same number numerous times just after midnight.
The number that Meisner called was linked to a cellphone owned and used by Gadlin's wife.
Police questioned the Gadlin family and faced nothing but denials. Gadlin and his wife said he had been sleeping in their apartment next door to Meisner's house and that he never left the apartment.
Soon after he was questioned, Gadlin was arrested for a domestic violence incident and police then got their biggest break in the case, Dolge said.
From jail, Gadlin called a friend and told him he needed to immediately go to Gadlin's car and retrieve something from under a white box in the trunk. Since Gadlin was a suspect in Meisner's killing, Gantt had all his jail calls recorded and sent police officers to Gadlin's car before his friend could arrive.
Inside the trunk, under the white box, police found the alleged murder weapon.
Gadlin, who was paroled from prison a year before the killing after serving time for a robbery conviction, has denied involvement in the killing. Gadlin, however, has admitted that he knew Meisner and helped him move some furniture from his house.
His attorney, Assistant Public Defender William Keep, said the prosecution does not have enough evidence to convict Gadlin.
"The DA has not proven the case," Keep said. "There is no DNA, there are no fingerprints."
Gadlin faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, as the case is being pursued as a Gadlin's third strike under the state's Three Strikes Law. The Oakland resident had been convicted three times in the past for robbery.