OAKLAND, Calif. — A Stockton man is in custody in connection with a murder-for-hire plot that claimed the life of a prominent San Francisco Bay Area dentist, authorities said, and the 73-year-old man arrested on suspicion of hiring someone to kill her died by suicide while in police custody.
The fatal shooting of Lili Xu, 60, last August in Oakland was believed at the time to be a robbery that ended with a homicide. But this week investigators alleged that Nelson Chia of Oakland hired Hasheem Bason, 33, of Stockton, to kill Xu.
Both men were arrested Thursday on murder charges. The next day Chia was found dead inside a holding cell at Santa Rita Jail, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
It wasn’t known Saturday if Bason had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. He was held without bail and scheduled for arrangement next week.
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Investigators believe Bason fired the gun that killed Xu on Aug. 21 in an Oakland neighborhood often called Little Saigon where she and Chia had gone to visit a spa. Initial reports were that a suspect got out of a car and attempted to rob Xu of her purse before shooting her and fleeing in the vehicle. Chia was not injured.
The killing drew attention at the time both because of Xu’s prominence in the Oakland Chinatown community and due to fears of anti-Asian violence, stoked by earlier hate crimes in the Bay Area.
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Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at a news conference Friday that as investigators probed the case, it “did not seem to be a typical robbery-related murder … something seemed to be off.”
“This is not a case about race or hate,” Armstrong said, “but about greed.” He did not elaborate on the possible financial motives behind the crime. “Some tried to use this case as a way of dividing our community. My hope is we can come together and support Xu’s family and our community, who have all experienced this tragedy.”
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said before Chia’s death became known that his murder charge would include a special enhancement of seeking financial gain as a result of the killing.
Xu, who came to the United States from Shanghai in 1995, had lived in the area for decades and ran dental practices in Oakland’s Chinatown and Castro Valley, according to the Bay Area News Group.
She and Chia had been partners for more than a decade and had lived together in a home in the Oakland hills.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on The Record: California dentist Lili Xu slain in plot amid wave of anti-Asian attacks