Wife: Murder suspect Cua acted strangely

The wife of a 53-year-old man accused of bludgeoning an elderly Millbrae couple to death testified against her husband, saying in a preliminary hearing Tuesday that shortly after the incident, she noticed cuts and swelling on his hand.

Joseph Cua, who lived in both Burlingame and Hemet in Riverside County, is accused of murdering Fernand Wagner, 78, and his wife, Suzanne, 68, in their Lomita Avenue home in Millbrae on June 14, 2006. Cua was employed by the Wagners as a property manager and was arrested in Oxnard in Ventura County five days after the murder.

Cua’s wife, Joy, took the stand Tuesday, recounting her husband’s behavior in the days after the incident. The night of the murder, she said, Cua drove from Burlingame toward Hemet, but made a side trip to sleep in a boat he owned in Oxnard. It was there that he told his wife over the phone that the Wagners “were shot to death” in a random act of violence.

When he finally arrived in Hemet, she said she became suspicious when his hand swelled. She said he also complained of pain in his shin. He refused to see a doctor, and his reasons for his injuries changed from falling on inline skates to stapling his finger to hurting himself with a sander, she said.

While testifying, Joy Cua avoided looking at her husband as she calmly spoke. She said she was kept in the dark during their marriage and suspected that he bugged her Hemet home and phone line. She was not allowed to ask him questions about money or his job.

“That was a line not to be crossed,” she said.

Millbrae police officer Robert Raw, who spotted the bodies through a side window after Suzanne Wagner was reported missing, also testified Tuesday.

“There appeared to be heavy traumato [Suzanne Wagner’s] head,” he recalled. “The male was fully clothed. I saw a large amount of trauma to his head as well.”

The hearing could conclude today, at which time a judge will decide whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take Cua to trial. Cua is in custody on $3 million bail.

About 10 family members and friends of the victims attended Tuesday’s hearing, including Tony Barbeau, of Redwood City, whose father was a neighbor of and best friends with Fernand Wagner.

bfoley@examiner.com

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