Trial for suspect in double-killing hangs on DNA

 As the double-slaying trial of Joseph Cua begins today, prosecutors say the casewill hinge on DNA gathered from the grisly crime scene left in the victims’ Millbrae home.

“Motive, opportunity and the calling card he left — that’s the core of the case,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Cua, 54, is accused of the June 13, 2006, killing of his former employers, Millbrae investor Fernand Wagner, 78, and Suzanne Wagner, 68, a hair stylist. Authorities say the couple was brutally beaten and attacked with a knife.

Prosecutors believe Cua, who managed properties for the Wagners in Burlingame and San Jose, was driven to kill by greed.

“We’ll argue it’s based on a financial motive. We do believe he was siphoning off funds as their property manager,” Wagstaffe said.

On Monday, the case was assigned to San Mateo Superior Court Judge Norman Gatzert. Pretrial motions begin today and opening statements will likely be presented next week. The trial is expected to last four to five weeks, Wagstaffe said.

Investigators recovered Cua’s DNA in the Wagner’s Lomita Avenue home, where their bodies were found. However, Cua’s defense attorneys are expected to argue that the evidence is unreliable, as Cua had been inside the home many times as a guest.

Jurors will also hear expert testimony regarding the Cua’s financial records.

Wagstaffe said the Wagners immigrated to the United States many years ago from France and became very successful.

“They were grasping onto the American dream only to have it shattered,” he said.

<p>The defendant’s wife, Joy Cua, is also expected to be a witness. In a July preliminary hearing, she testified that she noticed bruises on her husband’s hands after the murders and believed he was guilty.

Cua has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder with the special circumstance of committing multiple murders. He faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutors decided last year not to seek the death penalty.

Cua’s defense attorneys, Edward Pomeroy and Michael Hroziencik, did not return calls for comment.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

San Jose Sharks (pictured Feb. 15, 2020 vs. Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center) open the season on Monday against the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis. (Tribune News Service archive)
This week in Bay Area sports

A look at the upcoming major Bay Area sports events (schedules subject… Continue reading

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

Most Read