DA won't seek death penalty in Millbrae murder case

The San Mateo County districtattorney's office announced today that it will not seek the death penalty for a 53-year-old man suspected of murdering a Millbrae couple in 2006 if the defendant is convicted of the crime.

Joseph George Cua, a part-time resident of both Burlingame and Hemet in Southern California, pleaded not guilty in August to two counts of murder and denied a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. His

trial date of March 3 was confirmed at today's hearing.

There are a variety of factors that are taken into consideration when considering the death penalty, Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said. Prosecutors look at the crime and the defendant to see if he or she is an appropriate candidate for the death penalty. Some factors include the commission of the crime, as well as whether the defendant has a prior criminal record.

“All of these factors go into the calculation, and it was decided that this was not a case where we would seek the death penalty,” Gallagher said. District Attorney James Fox made the final decision.

Investor Fernand Wagner, 78, and part-time hairstylist Suzanne Wagner, 68, were found murdered in their Millbrae home in 2006. Police discovered their bodies after Suzanne Wagner failed to show up to work on June 14.

Cua was arrested in Oxnard a few days after police discovered the savagely beaten bodies in the home at 623 Lomita Ave.

Cua managed properties for the Wagners in Burlingame and San Jose, and according to defense attorney Edward Pomeroy, he developed a close relationship with the couple more than 25 years ago. He was arrested following a phone tip from a confidential source identifying him as a suspect, according to authorities.

Though DNA evidence from blood found at the crime scene and in Fernand Wagner's Cadillac, which was found in Daly City after the murders, appears to match Cua's DNA, defense attorneys argue that does not prove Cua was the perpetrator of the crime, and that forthcoming lab reports may show that someone else had been in the home.

Pomeroy said today that the decision of the prosecution not to seek the death penalty “drastically changes the dynamic of the trial.”

A jury trial is set for March 3 at 8:45 a.m. Cua is in custody on a no-bail status.

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