S.F. Police Tell Community Motive in Howth Street Murders Still Unclear

By: Brian Shields - Tue, 10 Apr 2012 23:55:41 -0800

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- San Francisco police and prosecutors held a town hall meeting  Tuesday to address community concerns about the grisly killing of five people  at a home in the city's Ingleside neighborhood last month and to discuss the  latest developments in the case.

      Three women and two men were found dead in a home at 16 Howth St.  near City College of San Francisco. Two days later, police arrested Binh Thai  Luc, 35, on suspicion of the killings.

      The female victims were identified as Wan Yi Xu, 62, Chia Huei  Chu, 30, and Ying Xue Lei, 37, while the men were identified as Hua Shun Lei,  65, and Vincent Lei, 32.

      The two elder Leis were the mother and father of Vincent and Ying  Xue, while Chu was Vincent's significant other, Chief Assistant District  Attorney Sharon Woo said.

      Luc pleaded not guilty last week to five counts of murder and  special circumstances alleging that he committed multiple murders, that he  committed the murders in the commission of robbery and burglary, that he used  a blunt instrument to kill the victims, and that he was lying in wait before  killing Vincent Lei.

      Police Chief Greg Suhr addressed more than two dozen community  members who came out to the town hall meeting held at City  College.

      "The main reason we're out here ... is wanting to reassure the  neighborhood once again that this crime was specific to a single address,"  Suhr said.

      "We have pretty much eliminated any chance that this was ...  anything other than between the suspect, Mr. Luc, and sadly the family at 16  Howth St.," he said.

      Suhr and Woo declined to discuss many details of the case, citing  the ongoing investigation, but the police chief did say authorities are  looking for two weapons they believe were used in the killings -- a blunt  weapon and an edged weapon.

      Suhr said police have not determined the exact weapons used, nor a  motive for the murders.

      "And if we did know, we couldn't reveal it," he said.

      One attendee of the meeting, who declined to give her name, said  she was worried that the murders, as well as another homicide nearby on April  1, were signs of an increase in crime in the neighborhood.

      "This is a quiet area," the woman said. "We're kind of concerned  about what's going on in the neighborhood."

      May Wong from the Excelsior District Improvement Association  criticized police for media reports that cited department sources saying that  the motive may have had to do with gambling.

      "It sounded to me like you were jumping from one motive to  another, and it all had to do with Asian stereotypes," Wong said.

      Suhr denied that was the case, saying, "You'll have to speak to  the various media sources that reported it incorrectly."

      Wong said after the meeting that she was skeptical that police do  not yet know the motive for the killings.

      "I feel that if they have a suspect in custody that they pretty  much know what the motive was, it's just that at this time maybe they can't  reveal," she said.

      Luc remains in custody in lieu of $25 million bail and will return  to court on May 3 for a status conference and to possibly set a preliminary  hearing date in the case.

      Public Defender Jeff Adachi had sought to have his office  represent Luc, but prosecutors objected, saying there was a conflict of  interest because the public defender's office represented Luc's brother,  Brian Luc, in a DUI and firearm case last year.

      A judge agreed with the prosecution and appointed Mark Goldrosen  as Luc's attorney. Goldrosen is part of a panel of private attorneys that  handle cases in which the public defender has a conflict of interest.

      Adachi had filed a petition for a writ to overturn the judge's  decision, but Woo said that San Francisco Superior Court Presiding  Judge Newton Lam denied the appeal.

      Adachi said last week that he planned to take his case to the  state Court of Appeal if Lam declined to overturn the other judge's decision.

       (Copyright 2012, Bay City News, All rights reserved.)
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