A 70-year-old man was sentenced today to four years in state prison for his role in the death of a 91-year-old woman who was killed at her home in Dublin more than two years ago over a bitter custody battle. Ping Li was initially charged with murder and burglary for the killing of Selma Hill and an attack on her grandson, 39-year-old Eric Hill, at a home in the 7700 block of Peppertree Lane on Jan. 7, 2009. But the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office eventually concluded that Li played only a minor role in the attack and agreed last month to allow him to plead guilty to burglary and being an accessory after the fact. Li was free from custody when he entered his plea because he had already been in jail for more than two and a half years and received additional credits that satisfied the requirements of his four-year prison term.
Li’s daughter, 36-year-old Rosa Hill, and his wife, 57-year-old Mei Li, were convicted on June 28 of first-degree murder and premeditated attempted murder for the attacks on Selma Hill and Eric Hill. They both face life in prison without the possibility of parole when they are sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Burr on Aug. 29. In his closing argument in the lengthy case, prosecutor Casey Bates said Rosa Hill and Li went to Selma Hill’s home, where Eric Hill and the couple’s then-2-year-old daughter also lived, as part of a plot to kidnap the daughter. Rosa Hill and Eric Hill, who later divorced, were separated at the time and he had been awarded sole legal custody and 85 percent physical custody of the daughter, which meant that Rosa Hill only got to see her 15 percent of the time. Bates said Selma Hill was killed the morning of Jan. 7, 2009, and Eric Hill was wounded when he was attacked by Rosa Hill and her mother after he returned to the home with the couple’s daughter later that day.
Rosa Hill zapped Selma Hill with a stun gun, beat her with a baton and choked her, then stuffed her body into a trashcan and locked it in a backyard shed, according to the evidence in the case. Bates said notes later recovered by police showed that Rosa Hill and Li called their plan “Operation Custody” and had purchased a cache of weapons that included guns, stun guns, a sword, a crossbow, a knife and a baton. Ping Li’s attorney, Theodore Berry, admitted today that Li was in a car outside Selma Hill’s home when the attack occurred but said Li was incapable of acting to stop the crime and made “damaging admissions” to police because he is not fluent in English and doesn’t speak well in general because of his age. Berry said that Li, who used to work as a courier for Alameda County, now wants to “reconstruct his life” and reconnect with another daughter.
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