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Albany Woman Arrested in Killing of Kensington Resident

Kensington police arrested Diane Wyn Sydenham on Tuesday on suspicion of the killing of retired Kensington psychologist James E. Durkin, who was found with a knife in his chest at his home on Monday morning.

UPDATED: Aug. 14, 6 p.m.

Kensington police have arrested an Albany woman in connection with the , 81, who was found at home with a knife in his chest Monday morning, authorities said.

Diane Wyn Sydenham is being held in custody on suspicion of murder after police arrested her at about 1 a.m. Tuesday in the 700 block of Kains Avenue in Albany, according to a Kensington police news release. A neighbor said Sydenham lives on the block.

Police have linked the 56-year-old woman to the death of Durkin, whose body was found in his home on the 600 block of Coventry Road Monday morning first by a caretaker and then responding police officer, police said.

According to the news release, police arrested Sydenham based on statements and physical evidence located at the crime scene. She is being held in the Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez on $1 million bail.

Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett said Durkin was stabbed, and that the knife was still in his chest when police found him.

Jewett said that Durkin and Sydenham were friends, and that Sydenham had been a guest in Durkin's house before.

Master Sergeant Rickey Hull of the Kesington Police Department said police are still investigating whether Sydenham and Durkin were romantically involved, but at this point it is unclear.

Jewett said the district attorney's office had not yet filed charges against Sydenham.

Durkin lived in an apartment under the main residence of his Coventry Road address. Hull said Durkin's body was first discovered Monday morning by a woman who was a caretaker for another elderly person who lived in the main residence.

Hull said he did not have the caretaker's identity.

The caretaker called police, who then responded to conduct a welfare check. Hull said the responding officer found Durkin's body on the floor of his apartment with a knife in his chest.

Jewett said an autoposy of Durkin's body was performed Tuesday morning. Though results are not back yet, Jewett said Durkin was probably dead for days before police found him.

The caretaker who found his body said Durkin and Sydenham had been romantically involved and often argued, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

One of Durkin's neighbors, Rita Brown, said she didn't know him very well, but that she did occasionally run into him on the street.

"The few times we talked to him he was very interesting," Brown said. "He was really into philosophy, studies, things like that."

One man who did work on Durkin's residence described the 81-year-old as a "nice old guy" who spent a lot of time on the computer.

Another man, who was aquainted with Durkin and asked not be identified, said Durkin was a psychotherapist.

The description on a Twitter account listed for James E. Durkin says "Princeton BA, Rutgers PhD, Psych License,Group Therapy Particpative Inquiry, Communitarian Medical models Poet."

One of Sydenham's neighbors, Jennifer Renton, said Sydenham had told her she was dating an elderly man, and didn’t mention any problems with the relationship. Renton did not know if the elderly man was Durkin.

According to Renton, Sydenham had seemed to be doing fine lately.

"I’m totally shocked," Renton said. "She had had some money problems in the past, but she had recently inherited a trust fund and that solved the money problems.”

Renton added that Sydenham had lately seemed "chipper," had joined a Buddhist meditation group and didn't show signs of distress.

"She didn’t seem like the kind of person to snap in some way," Renton said.

The Chronicle reported that Sydenham's attorney, Robert Beles, said Sydenham has no criminal history.

"She's very emotional and distraught," Beles said of his client after her arrest, according to the Chronicle.

Violent crime is a rarity in Kensington, particularly on streets like Coventry Road—a winding street in a quiet neighborhood of affluent homes, many with metal gates and flowering trees and bushes.

The last homicide in Kensington was in March 2011, when a homeless man was found dead in Kensington Park, possibly from injuries he received during a robbery in Richmond.

No homicides were reported in Kensington for at least the previous decade, 2001-10, according to the California Department of Justice.

Cathie Kosel August 16, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Is the walker the woman with braids that we see around a lot?
Chiara August 16, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Update: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Murder-charge-filed-in-Kensington-slaying-3793589.php
Chiara August 16, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Formally charged: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Murder-charge-filed-in-Kensington-slaying-3793589.php
Deborah Longmire August 17, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Yes this is the Diane who nwalks alot. No braids. Always with a straight back. Tall, There is a picture of her in one of the articles I read.
Darlene Hayes August 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Big picture in Friday chronicle

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