Closing arguments begin for woman accused of burning another woman to death in S.F. 

The woman accused of burning a homeless woman to death in January 2007 committed the deed in order to protect her drug-dealing and loan-sharking operation from snitches, according to prosecutors.

Closing arguments in the monthlong trial of Mia Sagote, 36, began Thursday morning with two of victim Jill May's children in attendance. Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart described Sagote as a businesswoman who ruled by fear, adhered to a strict code of the streets and employed any means possible to avoid getting caught.

May's encounter with Sagote reportedly began Jan. 11, 2007, when Sagote attempted to collect money May, 49, and her longtime partner owed.

When Sagote and accomplice Leslie Siliga found May without enough money for repayment that morning, prosecutors said, they allegedly stripped off her clothes and stole the small amount of cash she was carrying.

Later, police reportedly found May naked and "dope-sick." Officers filed a report of the robbery, which another of Sagote's associates discovered and relayed to Sagote later that night, prosecutors said.

The following morning, Sagote allegedly picked up Siliga in Daly City and headed for the Tenderloin. Her cellphone signal was picked up in the vicinity of the 500 block of Jones Street, where May was reportedly known to sleep and where she allegedly was seen in a car with Sagote and Siliga.

Prosecutors say the trio drove to Candlestick Park, stopping to buy a canister of gas.

At the stadium, Sagote allegedly drenched May in gasoline before setting her on fire.

Siliga, 37, already struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to both kidnapping and voluntary manslaughter. She is serving a sentence of more than 14 years in jail in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution.

According to prosecutors, Siliga has testified that until Sagote drove to the gas station, she thought it was going to be "just another strip job."

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S. Parker Yesko

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