REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF/AP) — The murder trial of a Chinese real estate heiress Tiffany Li got underway Monday with two very different versions of the 2016 murder of her boyfriend Keith Green being presented to the jury.
San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Bryan Abanto told jurors he will present evidence that Li lured Green to meet with her to discuss their custody dispute, and that Bayat shot the victim in the mouth in the garage of Li’s house.
Abanto said the pair hired a friend named Olivier Adella to dispose Green’s body on the side of a road 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, he said.
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.
The defense countered that Adella killed Green as a result of a botched kidnap plot and said investigators overlooked certain evidence in their quest to pin the crime on Li and Bayat.
“Evidence will show she very much wanted (Green) in their lives, in their daughters’ lives, together as parents,” defense attorney May Mar said.
A jury of 10 women and six men plus four alternates will determine Li and Bayat’s fate.
The trial has been delayed several times, most recently when Adella, who was supposed to be a witness for the prosecution, was arrested earlier this month on charges of contacting an ex-girlfriend and witness for the defense.
Adella was expected to testify that the pair asked him to dispose of Green’s body.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said prosecutors now will not call Adella as a witness.
Last year the trial was delayed when Li was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and underwent aggressive treatment, said her lead attorney, Geoff Carr. The cancer is in remission.
Green and Li met around 2009 when he was 21 and she was 23. He was a high school football star from a blue-collar neighborhood while Li was rich and educated.
Green’s body was found along a dirt road north of San Francisco nearly two weeks after he had been last seen meeting with Li to discuss custody of their children.
Li’s family made a fortune in real estate construction in China and she posted an astonishing $35 million bail that has allowed her to stay in her home pending trial. 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.
“She’s been under house arrest effectively for over two years,” said Carr. “She’s actually a little agoraphobic being in there for so long. She’s more comfortable indoors somewhat.”
The 31-year-old is backed by a group that raised $4 million cash and pledged $62 million in San Francisco Bay Area property. California courts require twice the bail amount if property is used instead of cash.
Li also has been on round-the-clock electronic monitoring.