A defendant is awaiting transfer to the California prison system after pleading guilty in Santa Barbara County Superior Court for a 30-year-old killing and other crimes.
Wei Miao, now 63, has been in the Santa Barbara County Jail since August 2020 after being extradited from England as the primary suspect in a homicide from 1991.
On June 9, 1991, the body of Los Angeles-area resident Chung Yu Ping, 50, was found in a culvert off Highway 1 in the Las Cruces area south of Buellton.
The victim’s body was discovered “stuffed in a rural culvert” with his head covered with a plastic bag, the Sheriff’s Office said.
A felony complaint and arrest warrant filed on June 28, 1991, accused Miao of murder and alleged that he used a dangerous and deadly weapon — a hammer — to commit the killing.
Sheriff’s detectives were unable to locate Miao, who reportedly traveled to Mexico City in June 1991 and obtained passage on a merchant ship to London, England, after getting a temporary passport from the Chinese consulate.
On Aug. 20, 2015, United Kingdom law enforcement officers located and arrested Miao in London.
After protracted court proceedings, his extradition was ordered by the UK High Court on July 1, 2020, and he arrived in Santa Barbara County in August 2020.
The criminal case has moved slowly Santa Barbara County Superior Court because of COVID-19 and was one of the oldest cases awaiting an outcome in the local court system.
Earlier this year, Miao pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, eight counts of second-degree burglary and first-degree residential burglary, according to court documents.
He was sentenced to 19 years in state prison in a February hearing where his victim’s children expressed anger at the outcome of the case.
“There are no words that could possibly describe how your actions changed my life,” daughter Shirley Bien said during the victim impact statement portion of the hearing.
She and her brother were teenagers at the time of their dad’s killing, which occurred months after losing their mom to cancer.
“My father was the kindest man ever,” she said. “He always had a heart of gold, always helped others, even when it was him who needed help.”
She said her father had trusted his killer. The defendant also was accused of stealing a wedding band, a gold necklace, keys, credit cards, a contractor’s license card and a truck.
“Who does this? Only a man without a soul,” she added.
Her brother, Peter Ping, added, “When he killed my dad he killed my family.”
Judge Von Deroian called the killing “needless,” noting it had “a lifelong ripple effect.”
While the family members weren’t happy with the plea deal, a trial could present risks related to a number of factors for a 30-year-old case.
Miao will be transferred from the county jail to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Due to the fact he has been in custody for seven years, he could be eligible for parole in four years.