Crime - Sacto 911

Former Sacramento teacher, once disciplined over gender change, arrested in triple homicide

Dana Rivers.
Dana Rivers. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

A former teacher who made national news nearly two decades ago when she tried to retain her job at a Sacramento-area high school while transitioning from male to female has been charged in an Oakland triple homicide.

Dana Rivers, 61, of San Jose was arrested early Friday in Oakland on suspicion of killing Patricia Wright, 57; Wright’s wife, Charlotte Reed, 56; and the couple’s 19-year-old son, Toto Diambu-Wright. Police said the two women were both stabbed and shot, and the man was stabbed. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said Rivers was covered in blood and about to ride away on Reed’s motorcycle when she was arrested. Authorities say the motive might have been a dispute over property. She was booked into Alameda County Jail on three counts of murder, arson and possession of metal knuckles.

Police say Rivers set the house on fire where the three were found in the 9400 block of Dunbar Drive about 12:30 a.m. Friday. Oakland Fire Department firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.

Diambu-Wright was an aspiring nurse who was attending college in Oakland and working at Walmart. Wright and Reed had been married for more than a year and had three children between them, the Mercury News reported.

Friends said Reed was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and owned a hair salon in San Jose.

Wright worked part-time at an elementary school in Oakland as a computer teacher, a school district spokesman said.

Rivers is the former David Warfield, a teacher at Center High School in Antelope in the 1990s. She taught American history and broadcast journalism, and was suspended in 1999 after disclosing plans to undergo sexual reassignment. She eventually resigned.

In 1993, she won the school’s “Stand and Deliver” award given to the teacher who best demonstrates the standards of the famed math teacher Jaime Escalante.

Rivers grew up in the south Bay Area. As a boy, she served as an acolyte in the Lutheran church and was occasionally the target of bullies in school.

“From as far back as I can remember, I felt different,” Rivers said in a Sacramento Bee profile in 1999. “I got Tonka trucks for Christmas and it didn’t feel right. I was socialized as a boy, but I didn’t feel as though I belonged. One of our neighbors had a playhouse in the yard and I remember very clearly wanting to be the mother.”

She rebelled as a teen, skipping classes, experimenting with drugs and moving out of his family home. She joined the Navy and served for three years, as the internal struggle with her gender intensified.

After leaving the Navy, Rivers moved to Orange County, where she earned a college degree and developed an interest in teaching. She served on a school board in Huntington Beach and worked in an administrative post for the American Federation of Teachers.

In 1990, after moving back to Northern California and earning a teaching credential, Rivers got a job at Center High School. She was suspended in 1999 and eventually resigned.

Rivers, who had started hormone therapy, had been accused by the board of trustees of inappropriately discussing her gender transition with students. She later accepted a $150,000 settlement from the district.

By 2001, at 45 years old, Rivers was living in the South Bay and had followed intensive hormonal therapy with complex surgery to create female sex organs. She was working on a book and was an activist for transgender people like herself.

At the time, Rivers was also hoping to return to the classroom, but it unclear how she was making a living at the time of her arrest last week.

Bee staff writer Cynthia Hubert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

Related stories from Sacramento Bee