Suspect in San Francisco mass killing pleads not guilty
Binh Thai Luc, 35, faces five counts of murder with special circumstances, including intentionally killing a person while lying in wait.
A judge set Luc’s bail at $25 million, according to Omid Talai, spokesman with the San Francisco district attorney's office.
Luc was arrested March 25 in connection with the slayings two days earlier of three women and two men at a home in San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood. Prosecutors say the San Francisco man was targeting a specific family member but killed five, all with a blunt instrument, then robbed the victims and burglarized the residence before fleeing.
Hua Shun Lei, 65; Vincent Lei, 32; Ying Xue Lei, 37; Wan Yi Xu, 62; and Chia Huei Chu, 30, all of San Francisco, were the victims, said Medical Examiner Deputy Director William Ahern.
Because of the special circumstances attached to the murder charges, Luc could face the death penalty, but San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon has said it is “unlikely” his office would ask for death.
“We’re hopeful that our decision is made public by the next court date,” Omid said.
Luc is due back in court May 3 to schedule a preliminary hearing.
A day after Luc’s arrest, officials revealed that he had been taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in August 2006 after he completed an eight-year prison sentence for assault and attempted robbery.
Authorities say he was ordered removed from the country by an immigration judge a month later. But Vietnamese authorities refused to provide appropriate travel documents and Luc could not be repatriated. He was released in December 2006.
The agency cited Supreme Court rulings and precedent in justifying its release of Luc. In a statement, ICE said the continued detention of an immigrant becomes unlawful after six months, when "no significant likelihood of removal exists in the reasonably foreseeable future."
"There are a number of countries where we encounter problems obtaining travel documents, and Vietnam is one of them," agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. "This is not unusual."
Kice added that Luc was on a reporting schedule to the ICE office in San Francisco as required after his release from custody. She said he was complying with requirements and had no other incidents or arrests. Omid said Thursday that an ICE hold remains on Luc.
Luc’s brother, Brian Luc, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of possession of narcotics for sale and being a felon in possession of ammunition. Brian Luc is currently on probation for a recent firearm and DUI conviction. His preliminary hearing is set for April 16.
-- Matt Stevens
Photo: Binh Thai Luc. Credit: San Francisco Police Department