Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 2:48 pm | Fog/Mist 59º


Local News

Vehicle Holds Trove of Evidence in Han Family Triple-Murder Case

Search of suspect Pierre Haobsh’s red Lexus turned up alleged murder weapons and several items belong to victims, including cell phones

A makeshift memorial was set up near the home where Dr. Henry Han and his family were killed last year. The preliminary hearing for the suspect in the case, Pierre Haobsh, completed its second day Thursday with focus on his car and items found inside, including the alleged murder weapons.
A makeshift memorial was set up near the home where Dr. Henry Han and his family were killed last year. The preliminary hearing for the suspect in the case, Pierre Haobsh, completed its second day Thursday with focus on his car and items found inside, including the alleged murder weapons. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk file photo)

Triple-murder suspect Pierre Haobsh’s legal fate may well turn on what detectives found inside his red Lexus the day he was arrested last year.

Pierre Haobsh Click to view larger
Pierre Haobsh (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

A search of the 2013 IS 250 luxury sedan turned up a trove of evidence — including the alleged murder weapons and several items belonging to the victims — linking him to the killings of Santa Barbara physician Weidong “Henry” Han and his family.

The bodies of Han, 57, his wife, Huijie “Jennie” Yu, 29, and their 5-year-old daughter, Emily, were discovered the evening of March 23, 2016, by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies who were dispatched on a check-the-welfare call to their home at 4640 Greenhill Way near Goleta.

Authorities had been alerted by business associates of Han after he missed a meeting with them.

The three victims were found in the garage of the three-story home, wrapped in plastic and bound with duct tape.

All three had died of gunshot wounds to the head, according to the Coroner’s Office.

Haobsh, 27, had been driving the Lexus sedan on March 25 before being taken into custody at gunpoint at a gas station in Oceanside in San Diego County, according to testimony Thursday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court during the second day of his preliminary hearing.

Detectives were tailing Haobsh and his father, Frederick Smith, shortly before his arrest, sheriff’s Senior Deputy Dennis Thomas testified.

Thomas said he and other investigators followed Haobsh from Smith’s home on Sunglow Drive in Oceanside to a nearby Walmart store, where they observed Smith giving Haobsh two duffel bags.

The pair, in separate vehicles, then drove to an Arco gas station a few miles away, where they were arrested by Oceanside police and Santa Barbara County deputies.

Shortly after Haobsh was taken into custody, Thomas said, a loaded 9mm Glock handgun was found on the floor of his vehicle near the driver’s seat. It was packaged as evidence and taken for forensic examination, he testified.

Evidence seals were placed on all of the Lexus’ doors, and the vehicle was transported by flat-bed tow truck to Santa Barbara County to be searched.

Investigators made a methodical examination of the Lexus and its contents, according to sheriff’s Detective Patrick Genovese, and found the following items they believe are connected to the killings:

» The previously mentioned 9mm Glock handgun and associated ammunition

» A Ruger .22-caliber Mach III handgun and associated ammunition

» What appeared to be a homemade noise suppressor or “silencer” for the weapons

» A rose-colored iPhone that belonged to Jennie Yu

» A gold iPhone that belonged to Han

» A cell phone belonging to Haobsh

» An iPad that belonged to Han

» A diamond-studded gold Rolex watch

» A copy of a memorandum of understanding between Han and Haobsh

» A credit card in Han’s name

» A gray soft-sided cooler that contained a variety of items, including Han’s wallet with his driver’s license; a .22-caliber shell casing and a live 9mm round; and a passport that belonged to Haobsh

Also found in Haobsh’s vehicle was a receipt, dated March 20, 2016, from Home Depot in Oceanside.

Among the items purchased, for a total of $290.33, were plastic sheeting, duct tape, a soldering kit and power tools.

There also was a receipt for El Capitán campground that was time-stamped at 4:11 p.m. March 22.

Sheriff’s Detective Matt Banks testified that he and other investigators traveled on March 28 to Tempe, Ariz., where the handguns and ammunition were purchased at American Firearms & Accessories.

Haobsh paid $1,121 in cash for the Glock, the Ruger and associated ammunition, Banks testified, adding that the store did not sell silencers.

He said that because the state of Arizona does not require a waiting-period for firearms purchases, Haobsh was able to leave the store with the newly purchased weapons.

The transactions were captured by the store’s video surveillance system.

Thursday’s final witness was sheriff’s Detective Anthony Kouremetis, who testified that on March 22, 2016, Haobsh rented a 24-foot truck from a Budget truck rental outlet in Tarzana.

He said interviews with the owner and documents obtained from the business show that Haobsh rented the truck, plus 12 moving blankets and a dolly, at 4:01 p.m., and had returned the vehicle prior to the store reopening at 8 a.m. the next day.

Records obtained from the business showed the truck had been driven 176 miles, Kouremetis testified, noting that the round trip from Tarzana to the Hans’ house would have been 162 miles.

Prosecutors did not explain the significance of the truck rental on Thursday, but earlier testimony suggested Haobsh may have unsuccessfully tried to get a friend to help him dispose of the bodies before renting the truck.

Earlier in the day, sheriff’s detectives testified about how they connected Haobsh to the triple-homicide case.

The memorandum of understanding between Haobsh and Han was found in the Han family home’s master bedroom, where at least one of the victims apparently was killed. The document was signed by both men and dated March 22, 2016, and appeared to create a company called Obsidian Teradine LLC.

The men had other business dealings together and worked with some of the same people in separate businesses, attorneys noted.

Detectives looked into Haobsh and connected him to the Lexus, which was registered in Arizona.

When investigators didn’t find the victims’ cell phones at the house, they had Verizon conduct “emergency pings” on Han’s and Yu’s devices to try to track their locations. Han’s was turned off and had last pinged in Camarillo on the night of March 23.

Yu’s was still on, and pinged to Oceanside, detectives said.

They also said they used a Facebook photo of Haobsh to try to gather leads in Santa Barbara, and the office manager at Han’s Santa Barbara Herb Clinic told detectives she had seen the man at the clinic on March 21 and 22.

Following up on Home Depot-brand packaging found at the crime scene, detectives asked the store to search its receipt system for recent California purchases that included the plastic sheeting and duct tape. A receipt was found that matched, with an 8:58 a.m. March 20 purchase at the Oceanside store.

The store also had surveillance photos and video of the purchaser, who appeared to be a white man pushing a cart.

Retired veteran prosecutor Hilary Dozer and Senior Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig are handling the case for the District Attorney’s Office.

Haobsh is represented by deputy public defenders Mindi Boulet and Christine Voss.

The preliminary hearing was to resume Friday morning with testimony about the autopsy results from Coroner’s Office personnel.

Judge Brian Hill is expected to decide by the end of the day whether Haobsh should be bound over for trial on the charges, which include three counts of first-degree murder and special allegations that the offenses were willful, premeditated and deliberate; committed by means of lying in wait; and committed for financial gain.

If convicted, Haobsh could be eligible for the death penalty, although District Attorney Joyce Dudley has not yet indicated whether she will seek it.

Noozhawk Managing Editor Giana Magnoli contributed to this report.

— This story includes reporting from Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli. Executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), and Magnoli at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >