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SF jury convicts man of five ‘brutal’ killings in Ingleside

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Binh Thai Luc, an undocumented immigrant from Vietnam, is accused of killing three men and two women at 16 Howth St., seen here on March 27, 2012. (Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner)

A San Francisco jury convicted a man of five counts of first-degree murder on Monday for brutally killing a family at their home in the Ingleside neighborhood a half-decade ago.

Jurors returned the verdicts against 41-year-old Binh Thai Luc after seven days of deliberations in San Francisco Superior Court. The jury also found Luc guilty of five counts of first-degree attempted robbery and two counts of burglary, while jurors acquitted Luc of five counts of robbery.

“This was a very gruesome, brutal murder,” District Attorney George Gascon said outside the courtroom. “We’re pleased that we’re getting some accountability for the family and for the community.”

The verdict comes just a week after Gascon accepted blame for the acquittal of an undocumented immigrant in the high-profile killing of Kate Steinle. The two trials took place across the hall from one another in the Hall of Justice.

Luc killed the family at their home at 16 Howth St. across the street from City College of San Francisco on March 22, 2012.

The prosecution said Luc beat his victims with a hammer after losing money at a card club in San Bruno. Luc had a gambling problem and an eviction notice from his home in San Francisco.

Vincent Lei, 32, was choked. His sister, 37-year-old Jessie Lei, swallowed her own teeth and had a broken jaw. His mother, 62-year-old Wan Yi Xu, was beaten the most and struck 21 times in the head.

Vincent Lei’s wife, Yo-Yo Chu, 30, and father, Hua Shun Lei, 65, were also killed.

Police later found the crime scene flooded with water and the bodies covered in household products.

Investigators later connected Luc to the scene through a fingerprint found on a bottle of Windex and blood on his clothing.

Luc is an undocumented immigrant from Vietnam who worked as a plumber. He has previous convictions in San Mateo for assault with a firearm, robbery and attempted robbery from 1997.

Now an inmate in County Jail, Luc arrived in the courtroom of Judge Carol Yaggy wearing a vest over a blue button-down shirt. Luc’s face had healed since he appeared in court for closing arguments last month with two black eyes.

When the court clerk read the first guilty verdict for the murder of Chu, Luc and his attorney Mark Goldrosen looked at each other. Luc later lowered his head after the clerk read the second guilty verdict for murder.

“He was quite disappointed,” Goldrosen told reporters after the verdicts. “But he is firm in his determination to continue fighting the case.”

Goldrosen said Luc was at the scene, but not guilty of the crimes. The crime looked to Goldrosen like a “gangland” killing, and Goldrosen said there is no evidence tying Luc to a gang.

Goldrosen said police did not follow up on leads that could have led to other suspects who could have been involved in the crimes.

“There were four fingerprints in the house that did match Mr. Luc or any of the decedents,” Goldrosen said. “One of the points that we raised is, whose fingerprints are those? That was never answered by the prosecution.”

Police arrested Luc at a motel in San Mateo after the killings. He had thousands of dollars in cash on him that the prosecutor said was stolen from the house on Howth Street.

“The money that was found on Mr. Luc, the $6,500, could not be traced to anything taken from the house,” Goldrosen said. “There were lots of reasons that he himself would have had cash on him.”

But Goldrosen said there was “evidence that somebody was looking around in the house,” which could explain why the jury found Luc guilty of attempted robbery but not robbery.

“The jury probably found that evidence to convince them that there was an attempt to take money by force, or something by force, but that it hadn’t been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that something had been taken,” Goldrosen said.

Goldrosen indicated he plans to appeal the verdicts.

Luc is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury also convicted Luc of two special circumstances for multiple murder and for murdering Vincent Lei while lying in wait.

Luc is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday to set a date for his sentencing.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.

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