The man arrested on suspicion of murdering five people in San Francisco on Friday was set to be deported from the U.S. in 2006 but ended up staying in the country after Vietnamese authorities failed to provide travel documents for him, federal immigration officials said today.
Binh Thai Luc, 35, was arrested Sunday morning on suspicion of killing three women and two men early Friday in a house at 16 Howth St., located in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood near City College of San Francisco. Luc had previously been arrested in 1996 and was sentenced in 1998 to more than 11 years in state prison after pleading no contest to assault, firearm and robbery charges in Santa Clara County, according to court records. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Luc into ICE custody on Aug. 2, 2006, after the completion of his sentence.
On Sept. 7, 2006, an immigration judge ordered him removed from the country, Christensen said. However, Vietnamese authorities declined to provide appropriate travel documents for his deportation, and Luc was ultimately released from ICE custody after 180 days because of a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevents extended detention of an illegal alien, Christensen said. He continued to report to the ICE office in San Francisco as required after his release from ICE custody, and had no other incidents or arrests until now. ICE has lodged another immigration detainer on Luc since his arrest for the murders, Christensen said.
The medical examiner’s office today released the victims’ names. The women were identified as Wan Yi Wu, 62; Chia Huei Chu, 30; and Ying Xue Lei, 37, and the men were identified as Hua Shun Lei, 65, and Vincent Lei, 32. A relative who has a key to the home found three of the victims at 16 Howth St. around 7:45 a.m. Friday and called 911. Police arrived and found the other two victims in another part of the house.
Property records indicate that Ying Xue Lei bought the two-story house at 16 Howth St. in January 2011 while Hua Shun Lei and Wan Yi Xu owned the house next door at 10 Howth St. Police said Friday that four of the five victims were members of the same family, but have not released further information on the nature of the relationships.
Ying Xue Lei, who also went by the name Jess Lei, worked as a software engineer at Quantitative Medical Systems in Emeryville, according to Roxanne Albertoli, an administrative assistant with the company. “She was a wonderful person, she didn’t deserve this,” Albertoli said. She said her co-workers knew something was wrong when Lei did not come in to work on Friday. “She was a very fine worker, a very good engineer,” Albertoli said.
The victims’ manner of death is still under investigation by the medical examiner’s office. Police Chief Greg Suhr initially said some of the victims had been shot, but said at a news conference Sunday evening that further investigation revealed that was not the case. Suhr said there was apparently an “edged” weapon involved, which he described as “a weapon capable of cutting you,” but said no weapon has yet been recovered in connection with the deaths. Suhr said Binh Thai Luc had some sort of relationship with the victims, but declined to comment on the nature of the relationship. He also said that Luc possibly had prior gang ties and has a criminal record.
Luc’s brother, Brian Luc, 32, was also arrested on suspicion of narcotics possession, being a felon in possession of ammunition and a probation violation. The brothers live together in San Francisco, according to police. Officers arrested the pair after serving search warrants at locations in San Francisco and San Mateo. Suhr said Binh Thai Luc was not arrested at his home.
The Police Department expects to hand the case over to the district attorney’s office by Tuesday, district attorney’s office spokesman Omid Talai said. “Once we receive that information we will make a determination with respect to charging Mr. Luc,” Talai said. Talai said if Luc is charged, he will likely be arraigned Wednesday.
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