Blood and DNA evidence found in a grisly murder that killed five people in San Francisco’s Ingleside neighborhood in 2012 points to the friend of one of the victim’s as the culprit, despite attempts to cover that evidence up with water, bleach and paint, prosecutors said Tuesday.
In opening statements this morning in the murder trial of Binh Thai Luc, 41, Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming said evidence found at the scene and in a search of his home and car ties Luc to the brutal killings.
Luc is accused of fatally beating, stabbing and choking three women and two men, all family members, at a home at 16 Howth St. near City College on March 12, 2012.
Those killed were identified as Vincent Lei, 32, his father and mother, Hua Shun Lei, 65 and Wan Yi Xu, 62, his wife, Chia Huei Chu, 30, and his sister, Ying Xue Lei, 37.
Luc, who went by the nickname of “Ping,” was friends with Vincent Lei, and Fleming said Lei was at the center of the crime. Luc is alleged to have killed the other family members and then waited for Vincent to come home to kill him.
Their bodies were discovered by a 12-year-old family member in the morning.
Fleming said evidence will show Vincent Lei received a call from his wife the night before while he was out with friends, telling him that Luc wanted to speak with him. He left for home a short time later.
The friends alerted police to the conversation after learning of the family’s deaths and attempting to reach Luc, who denied having been at the home.
Police arrested him two days later after tracking him to a San Mateo hotel, where Fleming said he was found in the lobby reading an article about the murders. He was found with nearly $7,000 cash in his possession.
Investigators found Luc’s blood and DNA at the scene and the blood and DNA of victims on clothing recovered in a search of his home, as well as in his car, Fleming said.
They also found evidence of an extensive effort to clean up the scene, including standing water on the floor 2 inches deep in places, bottles of beach and Windex and paint and shampoo splashed on and around the bodies of Vincent and Ying Xue.
“Everything that could be possibly be used to destroy evidence was used in this case.”
Fleming left the possible motive for the attacks unclear in his opening statements, although he noted that Vincent’s sister, Nicole, who discovered the bodies with her daughter, was heard by one witness saying that money had been taken.
Nicole has since denied ever making that statement and denied making that phone call in a conversation to police, although phone records show otherwise, Fleming said.
Defense attorney Mark Goldrosen said the evidence showed Luc was present in the home around the time of the murders but not that he was responsible:
“Those responsible have never been arrested or identified.”
Goldrosen said Luc had a good relationship with Vincent Lei, who occasionally helped him pick up work, and a well-paid job as a plumber’s apprentice.
“The evidence will show that Binh Luc had no reason, no motive to kill Vincent Lei or any of his family members,” he said.
Goldrosen noted that Luc was not found with any belongings from 16 Howth St. on his person or any murder weapons, and that he has evidence showing that he acquired the cash he was found with from other sources. In addition, he did not have the kind of extensive injuries that might be expected from a struggle with five people.
Goldrosen argued there was no evidence of the house being robbed or ransacked, and money and valuables that robbers might have targeted were left behind.
Instead he argued that police had failed to follow up on leads including information about money owed, a rumored involvement in the marijuana business by Vincent Lei and his wife and an FBI tip about a possible gang hit on the family.
Luc remains in custody without bail.