A 25-year-old homeless woman charged with murder admitted in court Tuesday to two vicious stabbings in San Francisco that she committed after not being allowed to urinate in portable toilets.
Lizette Cauich, who slept in shelters around The City with her boyfriend in spring 2016 and used methamphetamines and alcohol on a daily basis, returned to the stand for a second day in San Francisco Superior Court.
Cauich recalled stabbing 58-year-old Mitzi Campbell to death at a South of Market construction site June 10, 2016, less than two weeks after stabbing parking lot attendant Amar Dahmi in the Tenderloin. Cauich pulled a knife on her victims after she was not allowed to use the portable toilet at either location.
“I feel bad, I feel sad and hurt,” Cauich said about killing Campbell. “It was an accident. I didn’t mean to do that.”
Cauich said she stabbed Campbell in self-defense because Campbell called her a thief and pulled her hair as she walked away from the construction site where she wanted to use the portable toilet. Before the stabbing, Cauich was drinking a beer nearby with her then-boyfriend Oscar Mendez, 44, a co-defendant in the trial.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Ganz deconstructed each stabbing over hours of questioning Tuesday. Ganz showed Cauich a slow motion video of her swinging a kitchen knife into Campbell repeatedly until Campbell fell the ground face first.
Campbell’s family member exclaimed, “Oh my God,” from the audience and burst out of the courtroom in tears as the video played. The surveillance footage showed Cauich search through Campbell’s pockets as she lay there dying, her hard hat spinning away on the sidewalk.
“This was no accident, right?” Ganz asked Cauich. “You took your arm and you swung purposefully into her torso… She doesn’t have her hands on your hair… She’s not a danger to you… She’s backing up as you’re stabbing her.”
Cauich sat at the stand with her hair pulled back. She wore a blazer and oversized glasses, which she would occasionally remove to wipe the tears from her eyes with a tissue while testifying.
On Monday afternoon, Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt asked Cauich about her troubled childhood in Los Angeles where she was physically abused and sexually molested.
Cauich spoke about multiple traumatic experiences where her hair was pulled. Quandt claims Campbell triggered that trauma when she pulled Cauich’s hair.
Cauich told Ganz during cross-examination that she could not remember much about the stabbing because she “snapped.”
“I flashed,” Cauich said. “I just lost it. I saw red.”
Cauich said she searched Campbell because she thought Campbell was armed.
“It could have been the reflection of a car in the sun, but I thought I saw a weapon,” Cauich said. “I was threatened, so I don’t know.”
Police arrested Cauich when she tried to escape from the scene. Mendez, her ex-boyfriend, is facing charges for allegedly attempting to help her get away.
Mendez is also accused of stabbing Dahmi in the Tenderloin alongside Cauich.
Cauich, Mendez and an unidentified man allegedly stabbed Dahmi on May 29, 2016 at a parking lot on Taylor and Eddy streets.
Cauich said the trio was heading to grab a burrito when she went to use a portable toilet at the parking lot while the men waited across the street.
Cauich said Dahmi hit her over the shoulder with a trashcan when she asked if she could use the portable toilet.
“He just yelled at me, he said ‘no bitch,’” Cauich said. “I got offended. I said ‘I’m not a bitch, have some respect for women.’”
Cauich said she pulled a kitchen knife — the same one she would later use to stab Campbell — on Dahmi when he would not stop hitting her. But Dahmi hit the knife out of her hand, forcing her to pull another blade from behind her back.
“Mr. Dahmi was just looking at me surprised because I pulled out a second one,” Cauich said. “That gave me enough time to pick up my knife and leave.”
Cauich ran for help from the men across the street, she said.
Dahmi was picking up trash at the parking lot when Cauich returned with backup. The trio chased Dahmi with knives until he tripped on the ground, and then allegedly stabbed him.
But Cauich said she could not remember why she went for backup from Mendez.
“You knew that he was possibly armed with a knife,” Ganz told her. “You knew that he was gotten into fights before. You knew that he has a temper… What did you think we would do, stand there and do nothing?”
Cauich and Mendez are facing charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury.
Cauich is facing murder and second-degree robbery charges.
Mendez is facing charges of being an accessory after the fact with knowledge of a crime, carrying a dirk and dagger, buying or receiving stolen property and being in possession of a controlled substance.