Friends of a 15-year-old San Francisco boy who allegedly shot his teen friend to death inside a Silver Terrace home over the weekend, considered cutting the body in half and setting it on fire with gasoline in order to dispose of it, prosecutors said in court Wednesday afternoon.
The 15-year-old shooting suspect -- who The San Francisco Examiner is not naming because he is a minor -- appeared separately Wednesday morning in juvenile court, charged with murdering 16-year-old Andy Zeng, a sophomore at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School.
Visibly upset, the boy postponed entering pleas to murder, attempted arson and use of an incendiary device until an attorney is appointed. If convicted, he could be confined until age 25.
Zeng’s body was found in the lower apartment of a two-story home at 2138 Quesada Ave. at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, after upstairs neighbors smelled gas. Police suspect he was shot some time the night before.
Police arrested four people following the shooting. Two have been charged.
One of those, 18-year-old Jimmy Lei of San Francisco, pleaded not guilty in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday afternoon to charges of accessory to murder after the fact, attempted arson and use of an incendiary device.
Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai, referring to the 15-year-old suspect’s alleged account to police, described the grisly details of the killing and its aftermath.
Talai said Zeng’s body was found with black garbage bags over his head and legs. He said the 15-year-old boy, whose father rented the apartment, admitted to shooting Zeng in the back of the head with a .22-caliber handgun, but claimed it had been an accident.
After the shooting, the boy called three or four others, one of whom was referred to as a “fire expert,” to help dispose of the body, Talai said.
Lei arrived at the apartment with three 1-gallon containers filled with gasoline and latex gloves, according to Talai. The group then brought the body out of a closet, he said.
Lei recommended “cutting the deceased in half to make it easier,” Talai said. He then handed the 15-year-old boy a butcher knife, but when the boy refused, Lei suggested they break Zeng’s legs, he said.
They then doused the floor with gasoline, Talai said.
According to a police source, the matches the teens were going to use were damp and they could not start the fire.
A judge ordered Lei held on $1 million bail.
Lei’s attorney Samuel Lasser said after the hearing that his client was a City College of San Francisco student and “a good kid.” He said his client’s involvement in the case had been “seriously overstated.”
“I think he was involved,” said Lasser, adding that his client was perhaps “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Some of the allegations made Wednesday in court by the District Attorney’s Office:
- Andy Zeng was allegedly shot in the back of the head by 15-year-old friend late Saturday
- Cleanup crew of suspect’s friends arrives to help dispose of body with gasoline
- One friend suggests cutting Zeng’s body in half with a butcher knife, or breaking his legs
- Attempt to burn the body with gasoline fails
- Zeng’s body found early the next morning with head and legs covered in black garbage bags
The parents of Andy Zeng have been traumatized by the killing of their only child, saying Wednesday that the bizarre details of his death were only beginning to unravel before them.
Zeng’s mother is so distraught about her son’s death that she can’t eat or sleep, according to family spokeswoman Marlene Tran.
Zeng’s parents spoke to reporters Wednesday after a brief court hearing at the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department where a 15-year-old boy was charged with murdering their son.
In the parking lot after the hearing, Zeng’s parents — the father a construction worker and the mother an employee at a restaurant — said they did not recognize the murder suspect. Tran acted as interpreter for the couple, who don’t speak English.
Zeng’s mother thought her son was out with friends and had planned to stay the night Saturday at a friend’s home. The parents did not know any of the suspects, and had never before seen the home where their son was found dead, Tran said.
The father “wants to have a fair and expedited trial so there is closure in the case,” Tram said.
Zeng’s father also called for stricter gun control laws, since “everything is so lax in America,” Tram said.
He also said there should be a crackdown on truancy so children are going to school and not getting into trouble, Tran said. — Mike Aldax