A judge has denied a request by prosecutors to dismiss sentence-enhancing allegations against a murder defendant arrested in Hong Kong, where he fled after allegedly killing his two teenage nephews in their Arcadia home in 2016.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin denied the request Monday to dismiss special circumstance and other allegations against Deyun Shi, also known as Jeff Shi, who’s charged with the killings of 16-year-old William Lin and 15-year-old Anthony Lin. It wasn’t clear why prosecutors asked to dismiss sentence-enhancing allegations that could lead to the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
The teenage brothers were found dead by their parents about midday Jan. 22, 2016, at their home in the 400 block of Fairview Avenue. Their uncle is suspected of killing them after becoming enraged that his wife had obtained a restraining order against him and begun divorce proceedings. There was no immediate word of why the nephews would have been murder targets.
Shi — a Chinese national — was arrested a day later after landing at Hong Kong International Airport. China has no extradition treaty with the United States, but since 1998, Hong Kong has allowed the return of fugitives through a mutual legal assistance arrangement with the U.S.
Shi agreed to return to the United States for prosecution and has been jailed in Los Angeles County since at least July 2017. Jail records show he is being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility without bail.
Murder charges against the 49-year-old San Gabriel resident were originally laid out in a warrant for his extradition from China, but in January 2017, a judge declared him incompetent to stand trial. Shi was scheduled to be transferred to Patton State Hospital for treatment and criminal proceedings came to a halt.
He was subsequently indicted in January 2018 on first-degree murder charges. The indictment alleges that he used a bolt cutter as a deadly weapon during the commission of the crimes and includes a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, making Shi eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Shi is also accused of injuring his estranged wife in a separate attack at her La Canada Flintridge home the day before the boys were slain. The indictment alleges that he personally inflicted great bodily injury and used a maul — a type of hammer — in the domestic violence attack.
District Attorney George Gascon, who took office in December, committed on his swearing-in to eliminate all such sentence-enhancing allegations and not to seek the death penalty against any defendants. However, after pushback from victims’ rights advocates and his own prosecutors, he later amended that commitment to say he would pursue tougher charges in the most heinous crimes, including those against children and the elderly and involving hate crimes.
The District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why prosecutors want to see the sentence-enhancing allegations dropped in Shi’s case.
A candlelight vigil was held for the victims at Arcadia High School, where they were students, after their deaths.