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Crime News Snapped

Woman Hires Hitman to Kill Business Partner Over Cannabis Dispensary "That Was Worth Nothing"

Adan Katami and Tikisha Upshaw had a falling out over their joint marijuna dispensery, and police said instead of buying him out, Upshaw thought of a more sinister way to end the partnership. 

By Caitlin Schunn

Money was at the root of the murder of a young father, who was shot and killed in broad daylight along an intersection in Hayward, California in 2016.

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Police were able to narrow the suspect list to Adan Katami’s business partner, Tikisha Upshaw, in the newest episode of Snapped, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. When the business deal between the two started to go south, Upshaw turned to murder.

“It was cheaper for her to hire a hitman to kill him,” said Matt Gaidos, a prosecutor, on Snapped. “She made a calculation. So, the drive to commit a crime like this comes back to your deadly sins: Greed.”

What happened to Adan Katami?

Aladema County dispatchers began receiving 911 calls reporting a man was shot in his car at an intersection around 1 p.m. on July 13, 2016 in Hayward, California, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

Law enforcement found a man slumped over in the driver’s seat of his truck, with a gunshot wound to his side. Witnesses told them the shooter walked up to the truck, fired shots, and ran off. The victim was identified as 38-year-old Adan Katami through his driver’s license.

“It’s shocking when it happens in broad daylight, literally in front of families,” Jason Hawks, a former Alameda County Sheriff’s detective said on Snapped. “It sort of escalates it for the police as well.”

Officers were able to get surveillance video of the shooting from a nearby liquor store and subsequently put out alerts for the red Jeep Wrangler seen in the footage.

Less than an hour after the shooting, police found a man running down the street that matched the description from witnesses of the shooter. After eyewitnesses identified him as the gunman, Johnny Wright, 46, was arrested. Soon after, the red Jeep Wrangler was spotted three miles from the crime scene. A woman near the vehicle, 25-year-old Chariot Burks, said the vehicle belonged to Wright — her boyfriend.

Burks told police she and Wright had driven out from Tennessee, when Wright had asked her to drive him to the crime scene. She witnessed him put on gloves and take out a gun, and then heard the shots as she drove away. She claimed to not know the victim, or why her boyfriend shot him.

Wright, in police custody, refused to talk, leaving police with one unsolved question: Why?

Why was Adan Katami's relationship with his business partner strained?

In 2016, California legalized cannabis for recreational abuse, and Katami planned to start his own business: opening a cannabis dispensary. His family told police he had found the space for his dispensary and began renting it, but he was having trouble getting it open. He had recently teamed up with a new partner, Tikisha Upshaw, for Green God’s Compassion Dispensary.

A photo of Tikisha Upshaw, featured on Snapped 3218

“When Adan and Tikisha started this venture, he was the sole owner,” said Lita Medrano, Adan Katami’s aunt, on Snapped. “At some later point in time, he put her name on the business. But then she wanted more. And he was not willing to just hand over the business. So, things started to deteriorate.”

Feeling as though he was about to get screwed over in the business deal, Katami told Upshaw he wanted to be bought out of the business for a million dollars in the summer of 2016.

“They were 50/50 partners on a handshake,” Gaidos said. “They were supposed to get it memorialized by a lawyer. And as he’s repeatedly requesting these meetings, she wasn’t returning his calls. He felt he was being sort of iced out.”

What was Tikisha Upshaw's connection to Johnny Wright and Chariot Burks?

Although police suspected Upshaw was connected to Katami’s murder, they had no evidence to prove it. That all changed when a warrant on Wright’s cell phone — a burner phone — came through a week after the murder.

Police could see Wright’s burner phone was texting a number in northern California, but that number also belonged to a burner phone. However, the second burner phone was pinging off of cell towers near where Upshaw lived in the Bay Area.

While Upshaw was under surveillance, police found a link between her and Wright.

“What I found out is that Tikisha’s dad’s portion of the family was based out of Tennessee,” Nicholas Paxton, former Alameda County Sheriff’s detective, said on Snapped. “Johnny was also from Memphis. Connecting Tikisha to Tennessee was a big moment. That was definitely an ‘a-ha!’ moment, like OK, now it’s making sense.”

Tracking the locations of Upshaw’s real phone with her suspected burner phone, police were able to determine they were in all the same spots in the two weeks leading up to Katami’s murder. Twelve days before the murder, police tracked both phones to Berkeley and a man named Wessley Brown. The burner phone then remained in Berkeley with Brown, 38.

“Wessley was sort of the middleman,” Gaidos said. “Taking calls from Johnny Wright and relaying potential information back to him.”

Police had what they needed and arrested Brown and Upshaw. They were placed in neighboring cells with a hidden recording device.

“They know what we did. They know everything,” Brown was recorded saying to Upshaw while they were together.

Despite those words, the prosecutor ended up dropping the murder charges against Brown for a lack of evidence.

But in October 2019, Upshaw went on trial. She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

She appealed, but in 2022, that appeal was denied.

“She never took accountability for any of this,” Gaidos said. “She has held herself out as innocent, even went so far as testifying during her trial that she loved Adan and she was sad by this whole thing.”

As for the company they were building together, the local planning commission ended up voting 7-0 against opening the dispensary, just days after Katami’s murder.

“The toughest part about this whole case is the fact that she had Adan killed over a business that was worth nothing,” Gaidos said.

Wright pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Burks pled guilty to accessory to murder and was released for time served.

“Adan was taken from his family, from his children, from his friends, his community — for what?” Medrano said. “There was nothing to gain by it at all.”

Watch new episodes of Snapped airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen, or catch up on episodes on Peacock.

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