A judge has ordered a Pleasanton man to go to trial for the murder of his girlfriend, whose body was found dismembered on an Alameda shoreline in early August. And we're now learning that he was a Republican advocate for men wrongly accused in the #MeToo movement.
The disturbing domestic violence case involving a 27-year-old woman who went missing and whose remains later turned up, dismembered and wrapped in plastic, on a shoreline in Alameda over the summer now has some new and disturbing details.
42-year-old Joseph Carl Roberts was arrested and charged last month with the murder of 27-year-old Rachel Elizabeth Imani Buckner of Pleasanton. The primary piece of physical evidence linking Roberts to the crime is DNA of his that was found on duct tape used to wrap Buckner's body — which was found without heads, hands, or feet, none of which have yet been located.
Now, as the Chronicle reports, investigators revealed in a hearing what they found when they served a search warrant at the Pleasanton apartment that Roberts shared with Buckner, where all of the carpeting had been ripped up and only the carpet padding remained on the floor.
Roberts faced a preliminary hearing in the case that started last week. In addition to submitting the DNA evidence and providing testimony on how it was collected and processed, prosecutors put neighbors and police detectives on the stand. On Friday, one neighbor testified to hearing loud arguments between Roberts and Buckner, including hearing Roberts's voice yelling "shut the fuck up" and pleas from Buckner to stop hitting her. A neighbor also testified to running to the aid of a crying, scratched up, completely nude Buckner, who ran out of the apartment once in the middle of the day. The neighbor brought her a blanket and clothing, as the Chronicle reported last week.
A neighbor also testified to seeing Roberts taking several large garbage bags out of the apartment, and to smelling the strong scent of Fabuloso, a cleaning product, emanating from the apartment afterward.
A police detective testified Tuesday to the responses of a sniffer dog or detection dog inside Roberts's apartment. The dog, trained to smell traces of blood, bones, and decaying tissue, first responded to a mop in the apartment. The dog also detected something around a bathtub, and jumped up to sniff inside a washing machine — and investigators said they found what could be blood spots on a ceiling and a door, as the Chronicle reports.
Police also surveiled Roberts and found him registering Buckner's car at the DMV one day before he was arrested. He continued to use Buckner's phone and car after her disappearance, which had not been reported because she was estranged from her family over the previous year.
Alameda police Detective Robert Hansen further testified that Roberts claimed in an interrogation that Buckner was suicidal, but when he was shown photos of her dismembered remains, he showed no reaction. Roberts then allegedly floated the idea that she was murdered by a debt collector.
Roberts's court-appointed attorney attempted to discount this evidence, per the Chronicle, telling the court, "Nothing was shown to the court that this person died by foul play, as macabre as it may be. The court has no evidence that this person died as a crime."
Buckner and Roberts reportedly met when they were both students at Golden Gate University School of Law, from which Buckner graduated with a law degree. She was also a graduate of Howard University, according to a GoFundMe posted by her family.
"To anyone that got to know and be around Imani, she was a beautiful and radiant light," Buckner's mother, S. Jamila Buckner, writes. "She had an infectious spirit that you could not help but smile when around and gravitate towards."
Roberts was elected to the San Francisco Republican Central Committee in 2020, and had previously garnered attention as an activist for falsely accused men in the #MeToo movement. Roberts made national headlines in 2018 after he was expelled from Savannah State University in Georgia for an abuse allegation, and became a vocal spokesperson for accused men on campuses. He was even featured on Nightline that year as one of the example cases used by the Trump administration to roll back Title IX reforms at universities.
Roberts was accused of harassment by two students at Savannah State. "Rather than investigate, the school suspended me — no questions asked — the very day the first accusation was made," Roberts said in a 2020 opinion piece in USA Today. "It was just weeks before what would have been my graduation."
On Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge David Pereda ruled that there is sufficient evidence to move forward with a trial. Possible blood evidence, including swabs of the apartment's bathtub drain and a section of bathroom wall removed by the FBI, remains to be tested.