Staff writers

OAKLAND -- The two teen girls had been friends since they were 8 years old and their bond was unbreakable. So, when one wanted to leave a relative's East Oakland mobile home at 5 a.m. Sunday, the other followed her out into the cold, dark night.

No one really knows what happened after that, but the girls, Bobbie Sartain, 16, and Raquel Gerstel, 15, were found shot to death about an hour later near Brookdale Park, about a mile from the mobile home park. Their killers remain at large.

It was 4 a.m. Sunday when the best friends showed up at Chuck Briggs' aging mobile home at High Street and MacArthur Boulevard. Briggs is Bobbie's uncle and the two girls went to his home occasionally to raid the refrigerator, charge their cellphones and make phone calls, he said.

But on Saturday night, the girls were supposed to be at Raquel's home in San Leandro for a sleepover. Raquel's family could not be located for comment Wednesday and it's unclear if the girls were ever at the San Leandro home Saturday.

"She told me she loved me before she left (for the sleepover)," said Bambi Sartain, Bobbie's mother.

When they turned up at the mobile home in the pre-dawn hours Sunday, Raquel was arguing with someone on the phone, and Briggs told them to lie down and go to sleep, the mother said.

"And they mouthed off a little," said Bambi Sartain. "Her uncle told her to leave, and Raquel wanted to leave and Bobbie went with her. They were best friends. She'd do anything out of loyalty."

The girls reportedly walked to a nearby Union 76 gas station on High Street just before 5 a.m., Bambi Sartain said she has learned since the killing.

It was the last time the girls were seen alive.

"They didn't say where they (had been) or where they were going" when they left the mobile home, the mother said.

The teens were found about 6 a.m., each shot multiple times and lying on the asphalt in the 2600 block of Minna Avenue near the park. Neighbors who heard the gunshots ran outside and saw the girls on the ground, crouched down to hold their hands and called 911.

Bobbie Sartain was a "beautiful girl" with five siblings, her mother said.

"She had a bright future," Bambi Sartain said. "I'll never be able to get over (her death) in my lifetime. She was my heart."

The deaths were the 114th and 115th this year in a city that has seen several young victims of violence; Raquel was the youngest female victim so far this year.

Bambi Sartain said Bobbie loved animals and wanted to become a veterinarian.

"She was a good girl and she got caught up with something she shouldn't have been involved in," Sartain said. "She was a teenager and kind of unruly, but I thought there was more time."

Police do not have a motive for the killings and don't know why the girls were on that street alone at the early hour. No arrests have been made.

Jayne Nayman, who lives across the street from where the bodies were found, said the barrage of bullets -- some say as many as 40 shots -- woke her. Her son, 36-year-old Jed Hamilton, rushed out to the girls' aide with other neighbors, Nayman said.

One of the girls was still alive, Nayman said.

"My son held her hand," she recalled. "I was afraid to go outside, but my son, he's fearless."

Nayman dialed 911.

"I said, 'I live on Brookdale Avenue. I just heard about 30 shots fired outside my house and I hear moaning. Something is terribly, terribly wrong.'"

Police arrived within 90 seconds, she said.

Shortly after, she said, her son ran back to their home, crying.

"He said, 'Don't go out there mom. Stay inside. The blood. It's bad.'"

Neighbors said the girls took their final breaths on separate sides of the street, their bodies lying diagonal from one another.

Two memorials with roses, candles and teddy bears sprung up Wednesday on the street. An anonymous note read, "Sweetheart: Though I did not know you before, I felt great love for you as you were going somewhere else. I promise I will do everything in my power to make sure this was not in vain."

There are other remnants of the shootings. Bullets peppered a car and three rounds hit a single-story home on nearby Brookdale Avenue, owned by retired East Bay parks firefighter Steve Davis, who has lived there two years.

Neighbors said the area isn't particularly dangerous but that prostitutes are known to frequent the area.

The investigation is continuing, but police know little about the teens or what their lives were like before they were slain. Authorities said the two girls had been friends for years after meeting in Alameda, where Raquel was raised before moving to San Leandro. Recently, they were seen together all the time, police said.

Raquel lived in San Leandro and was a freshman at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, a school district official said.

"We're all so sad -- our hearts go out to the families," said Sharon Lampel, assistant superintendent of human resources at San Lorenzo Unified School District. "And we're here for our students and staff who need to get through this."

Police said that Bobbie's last known address was in Oakland, but she hadn't been enrolled in the city's school district since 2008, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Family members, meanwhile, are begging anyone who knows anything about the crime to come forward.

"Anyone who knows of any witnesses, please come forward, even anonymously," Bambi Sartain said, crying. "I beg of you. I would do anything to get closure.

"I don't know why someone would do this to my daughter," she said. "She had no money, no nothing. She was just a baby."

Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this story. Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender. Reach Natalie Alund at nalund@bayareanewsgroup.com. Reach Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com.

To help
Police and CrimeStoppers of Oakland are offering up to $20,000 in reward money for information leading to those responsible for the deaths of Bobbie Sartain, 16, and Raquel Gerstel, 15. Anyone with information can call police at 510-238-3821 or a tip line at 510-773-2805.