An Oceanside man accused in the 2016 slayings of a Santa Barbara physician and his family was in court through an online video-conferencing platform on Wednesday, and his case is scheduled to be back in court next month.
Pierre Haobsh, 30, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, as well as special allegations in the deaths of Dr. Weidong “Henry” Han, 57, founder of the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic; his wife, Huijie “Jennie” Yu, 29; and their 5-year-old daughter, Emily.
In 2017, Haobsh pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied the allegations.
The victims’ bodies were found wrapped in plastic and bound with duct tape in the garage of their home near Goleta on March 23, 2016, after Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched on a check-the-welfare call.
Autopsies determined that all three died from gunshots to the head, according to the Coroner’s Office.
Haobsh agreed to waive his right to physically appear at Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes.
“Yes, I’m fine with that,” Haobsh told Judge Brian Hill.
Attorneys on both sides also participated via the online meeting platform.
Clear acrylic shields separated the judge, two court staff members and a bailiff inside the retrofitted courtroom at the Anacapa Division of Santa Barbara County Superior Court. Everyone in Hill’s courtroom wore face coverings over their nose and mouth. Social distancing signs were posted on seats in the back of the courtroom, with no members of the public in attendance during the morning hearing.
Haobsh is being represented by Public Defender’s Office attorneys Christine Voss and Michael Hanley.
For about 20 minutes, Voss and Hanley conferred privately with Haobsh in the breakout room function on Zoom before the start of the proceeding.
Hill told the defense attorneys it is “a positive you (Voss and Hanley) are able to accomplish that without having to personally go to the jail.”
The judge said that “at one point, we had contemplated beginning jury selection in early October.”
In response to a question from Hill about scheduling for the trial, Hanley said the Public Defender’s Office attorneys hope to “return to court in two weeks to further address that issue, and the possibility of a time waiver … and also to discuss some accessibility issues we are having.”
“It’s difficult for us to meet with Mr. Haobsh,” Hanley said. “We have had some phone calls here and there.”
Before the pandemic, Hanley said, the defense attorneys would have visits with Haobsh “pretty much on a weekly basis” at the jail. The defense attorneys would like to meet virtually with Haobsh on a fairly regular basis, “so we can proceed and prepare for this case,” Hanley said.
Voss said she is working to resolve the issue, and that “we need to be able to meet with Mr. Haobsh in a meaningful way.”
The county District Attorney’s Office decided to pursue the death penalty in the case, which is being prosecuted by Hilary Dozer and Benjamin Ladinig.
Investigators collected evidence throughout the three-story house, and detectives reportedly connected Haobsh to the case after finding a copy of a memorandum of understanding between him and Han, and other items they believe are connected to the killings.
During the preliminary hearing in 2017, it was revealed that authorities discovered numerous items in Haobsh’s car at the time of his arrest.
Haobsh was arrested at gunpoint at a gas station in Oceanside in San Diego County two days after the bodies were found.
He remained in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail on Wednesday, where he has been held without bail.
He is scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 12.