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SF Prosecutor ‘Unlikely’ To Seek Death Penalty In Slayings Of 5

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Accused killer Binh Thai Luc and the scene of five murders at 16 Howth Street in San Francisco. (CBS)

Accused killer Binh Thai Luc and the scene of five murders at 16 Howth Street in San Francisco. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told CBS 5 on Tuesday night that he was “unlikely” to seek the death penalty against a man charged with murdering five people last week in a home near City College of San Francisco.

Binh Thai Luc, 35, was arrested over the weekend and formally charged on Tuesday with the grisly killings of three women and two men inside a home at 16 Howth Street in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood

Luc, a San Francisco resident and convicted felon who had previously faced deportation, was set to be arraigned Wednesday on five counts of murder with special circumstances for committing multiple murders — which makes him eligible for capital punishment if convicted.

Gascon told CBS 5 that he would “thoroughly review the details of the case, but it is unlikely I will seek the death penalty.”

The bodies of the victims were discovered by a family member who then called police; the medical examiner’s office has not released their causes of death, but SFPD Chief Greg Suhr has said some type of “edged weapon” was used.

Related Coverage:
SF Mayor Calls For Immigration Reform In Wake Of 5 Murders
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The women victims were previously identified as Wan Yi Xu, 62; Chia Huei Chu, 30; and Ying Xue Lei, 37, and the men were Hua Shun Lei, 65, and Vincent Lei, 32.

Police have said four of the five victims were family members and believe Luc had some sort of relationship with the victims, but investigators declined to elaborate. KCBS cited reports by some media outlets that the five were slain over a gambling debt.

Mayor Ed Lee, speaking Tuesday at an unrelated event, called the killings a “horrible tragedy,” noting that one of the victims, Hua Shun Lei, worked as a chef at R&G Lounge, which he called “one of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown.”

“My heart goes out to that whole family,” he said.

Lee also addressed information revealed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Monday indicating that Luc was ordered deported from the country in 2006 after finishing a prison term for a violent robbery a decade earlier.

However, authorities in Luc’s native country of Vietnam declined to provide the appropriate travel documents for his deportation and he ultimately was released from ICE custody after 180 days because of a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing the extended detention of an illegal alien.

Lee said the case shows the need to reform the nation’s immigration policy to provide another alternative in a case like Luc’s.

“There wasn’t anything we could possibly do locally,” he said.

Luc’s brother, Brian Luc, 32, was also arrested over the weekend on unrelated drug and weapons charges.

Police said the investigation into the deaths was ongoing and encouraged anyone with information about the case to call the SFPD’s homicide detail at (415) 553-1451, the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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