DNA may play role in murder case

The life Fernand and Suzanne Wagner carefully built together during 40 years of marriage came to a cruel and brutal end June 13, 2006, at the hands of their trusted friend and employee Joseph Cua, prosecutors said Thursday.

Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher told jurors during the openingstatements of the Burlingame man’s trial that they would hear physical and financial evidence that established Cua’s motive and placed him at the Wagners’ Millbrae home when they were beaten and slashed to death.

Gallagher said Cua, 54, had been leading “double, secret lives.” He had a wife and infant daughter in Hemet and a serious girlfriend in Burlingame. Cua, who worked as a property manager for the Wagners’ three multiunit buildings, was also allegedly embezzling from his longtime friends.

Jurors would hear testimony, Gallagher said, from a forensic accountant that would show that Cua charged tenants increasing rent without the Wagners’ knowledge, and pocketed the extra money.

In the week before he was killed, Fernand Wagner started asking questions of his accountant as to why his accounts were missing money, Gallagher said.

Prosecutors will call Cua’s wife, Joy, to testify about bruises and cuts she noticed on her husband following the crime, he said.

Joseph Cua’s blood was found in the Wagners’ Cadillac after he allegedly fled in the car, Gallagher said. His DNA was also found all over the bloody death scene, and in Suzanne Wagner’s panties, which had been stripped off of her body.

But defense attorney Edward Pomeroy said that it was the DNA evidence collected by police indicates someone else attacked the Wagners. DNA from an unidentified person was found under Suzanne Wagner’s fingernails and on the bloodstains on Fernand Wagner’s pants, he said. Bloody footprints throughout the home matched none of Cua’s shoes, he said.

Joy Cua was unhappy with her husband’s other relationships and lied to police, hoping to write a book about the murders, which she suspected would be “bigger than the Scott Peterson case,” Pomeroy said.

Cua fled to Hemet after the murders because he feared he would be considered a suspect due to his financial relationship with the Wagners, Pomeroy said.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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