Several years before allegedly killing and dismembering her roommate for refusing to move out of their Mission District home last month, 47-year-old Lisa Gonzales faced a housing struggle of her own.
Gonzales is accused of cutting up a 61-year-old woman who rented a room in her family’s home for $400 a month and hiding the dismembered corpse in a storage container for weeks until police found the decaying remains June 2.
The gruesome killing comes as the housing crisis rages on in San Francisco, where the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $3,995 as of last month, according to real estate website Trulia.
In 2014, Gonzales marched into a West Portal real estate office with tenant rights advocates and claimed that her landlord, Jason Chan, had illegally converted the apartment building at 255 14th St. into condominiums. Local videographer Peter Menchini recorded the confrontation.
“Chan converted my unit in 2011, he still owns the unit, and he purposefully did not offer my family a lifetime lease,” Gonzales said. “My grandmother is 94. My mother is 66. He totally circumvented the law for his own purposes.”
POOR Magazine later reported that Gonzales secured a lifetime lease on the unit. But public records show Chan filed paperwork with the Rent Board in November 2017 to open negotiations on buying the family out of the unit.
When reached by phone Thursday, Chan declined to comment. “I don’t really know her,” Chan said of Gonzales before hanging up the phone on the San Francisco Examiner.
Days after the homicide, the Medical Examiner’s Office is still trying to positively identify the remains, but 61-year-old Margaret Mamer is registered to vote at the address.
Mamer moved into the unit last August after falling on hard times, according to court documents. Marion Garbo Seltzer, a friend of Mamer’s, posted on Facebook that Mamer had recently been reported missing to police.
“The woman from whom she sublet told my friend she had to move out,” wrote Seltzer, who did not respond to a message from the Examiner. “My friend resisted because moving is difficult and expensive. It turns out my friend was renting from someone who had psychiatric issues, and my friend was murdered.”
Prosecutors say Gonzales and the victim got into an argument May 15 about misplaced and broken items in the unit.
Gonzales told investigators after her arrest that she had “‘flipped,’ but didn’t have a ‘real recollection’ of what happened,” according to court records.
On May 16, another person living there heard the sound of sawing coming from the bathroom and smelled “metallic” and “vinegar” odors. Gonzales allegedly told that person that the victim had left, “but not the way she should have.”
The witness later found a hacksaw under a sink and noticed that a large plastic container was missing, according to court records.
On May 31, a second witness told police they believed Gonzales had killed someone and the following day the victim was reported missing.
During a welfare check June 2, police searched a storage area in the building and found the container covered in maggots and filled with bags of body parts.
According to court documents, the arms and legs were severed while the head and torso were still connected. Prosecutor Alex Maldonado described a “dark, ‘viscous’ liquid bubbling from the sides of the large plastic bag.”
Gonzales is expected to enter a plea at arraignment Friday. She has been charged with a single count of murder.