Judge orders East Bay man to trial in cold hit rape, murder

AP file photo

A judge on Friday ruled an East Bay man should stand trial for allegedly raping and murdering a woman inside her apartment in San Francisco’s Richmond district in 1991.

Otis Hughes, now 58, was arrested in December 2008 after DNA evidence linked him to the Feb. 27, 1991 crime scene where 38-year-old Karen Wong was found to have been fatally stabbed and sexually assaulted, according to police and prosecutors.

Friday morning, at the conclusion of a preliminary court hearing in the case, Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee found there was sufficient evidence to hold Hughes for trial on charges of first-degree murder and rape.<br>
Hughes’ attorney, public defender Stephen Rosen, had questioned whether Wong’s original autopsy report, prepared by former chief medical examiner Dr. Boyd Stephens, was admissible. Stephens has since died and Rosen argued that the report was lacking in information that confirmed how long after the autopsy it had been prepared.

Under state law, such evidence has to be prepared “at or near” the time of the event in question, in this case the autopsy.

Lee acknowledged there were “questions” about the timeline between the autopsy and the report, but said the testimony of current chief medical examiner Dr. Amy Hart sufficed to admit it as evidence at a preliminary hearing.

Hart had earlier testified that the report had been prepared “at or near” the time of autopsy and according to the office’s standards.

Hughes shook his head after Lee delivered today’s ruling. He is due back for arraignment on Jan. 4. A trial date has not yet been set.

Hughes, of Richmond, had been released from prison in October 2008 after serving a 17-year sentence for several residential burglaries in San Francisco, also in the early 1990s.

At the same time, investigators found a match between his DNA and DNA recovered from Wong’s body, prosecutors said.

Wong had worked in the development office of the San Francisco Opera. She had been recently laid off, and when she failed to show up for a job interview, her brother went to her apartment in the 400 block of 47th Avenue and found her body, which had been hogtied and stabbed.

Wong’s boyfriend at the time, whom she was planning to marry, said he had last seen her three days before she was found dead.

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