REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) — The murder trial of Hillsborough heiress Tiffany Li neared its conclusion Wednesday as the jury heard closing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case.
Li is accused of plotting to kill her ex-boyfriend and the father of their two children, Keith Green, because of a custody battle she was having with him.
Prosecutors argued Li and her then new boyfriend Kevah Bayat planned and carried out the 2016 killing after luring Green to her Hillsborough chateau-style mansion.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe admitted there was “no smoking gun” in the case, but prosecutors presented enough “pieces of a puzzle” to lead the jury to convict the co-defendants.
“The evidence all points towards the motive, the intent, the resources all belonging to the two defendants,” said Wagstaffe.
Family members, friends, criminologists and investigators took the stand during the 34-day trial to shed light on the crime.
Prosecutors have portrayed the Hillsborough socialite as a cheating girlfriend who plotted with her new boyfriend to kill Green.
San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Bryan Abanto told jurors that Li, whose family in China has made a fortune in real estate construction, lured Green to her chateau-style mansion in 2016 to discuss the children, where Bayat forced a gun into Green’s mouth, breaking a tooth, and pulled the trigger.
Abanto said Li and Bayat then hired Bayat’s friend Olivier Adella to dispose of Green’s body, which was eventually found decomposing off the side of a road in Sonoma County, and took steps to cover their crime by creating alibis for themselves.
Investigators later found more than $35,000 in cash and Green’s watch hidden in a lunchbox at Adella’s apartment.
After Green, 27, went missing, Abanto said Li told investigators she last saw him at a restaurant when cellphone data linked his whereabouts to her house.
Defense lawyers have countered that Adella murdered Green in a botched kidnapping attempt, claiming prosecutors ignored evidence pointing to him.
“The prosecution is prosecuting a case, but they have the wrong people on trial,” John May, Bayat’s attorney, said at the start of the trial.
During their closing arguments, the defense projected well known optical illusion in front of the jury in which some people see a young woman turning away or and old woman looking down.
It was meant to raise doubts by showing how evidence can be interpreted in different ways by different people.
“There seems to be more evidence consistent with it being a failed kidnapping than it being a murder; that something went wrong,” said defense Attorney Geoff Carr.
The case grabbed national headlines when Li was required to post an astonishing $35 million bail that allowed her to stay in her home. It was based on the prosecutors fears that she was a flight risk.
She was also ordered to surrender her passport to make it difficult to flee the country.
The 31-year-old is backed by a group that raised $4 million cash and pledged $62 million in San Francisco Bay Area property to guarantee her bail. California courts require twice the bail amount if property is used instead of cash.
Prosecutors will get the final word before the jury gets the case sometime Thursday.