REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KTVU) - The jury reached a verdict Thursday in the murder trial of the Hillsborough heiress accused of killing her former lover.
The jury found Tiffany Li not guilty of murdering Keith Green. Jurors were deadlocked for Li's boyfriend and co-defendant Kaveh Bayat, resulting in a mistrial. The prosecution said they have not made a decision whether to re-try the case.
Prosecutors said Li lured Green to her mansion to discuss a custody dispute, where Bayat fatally shot the victim in the mouth. The pair then hired a friend, Oliver Adella, to dispose of Green’s body and took steps to cover their crime by creating alibis for themselves, San Mateo County prosecutor Bryan Abanto said.
Prosecutors alleged Adella dumped Green's body in Sonoma County. Adella himself told prosecutors the couple had paid him thousands of dollars to "take out the trash."
Li pleaded not guilty. Her case drew national attention when Li, backed by the wealth her family made in real estate construction in China, posted an astonishing $35 million bail that allowed her to stay in her home pending trial.
Her co-defendant, Bayat, also pleaded not guilty and remains in jail on $35 million bail.
Abanto told jurors there was evidence that gunshot residue was found in the garage of Li’s house and Bayat’s DNA on a gun magazine. He said Green’s blood was found in Li’s Mercedes wagon and in a vehicle belonging to Adella.
Investigators later found more than $35,000 in cash and Green’s designer watch hidden in a lunchbox at Adella’s apartment, he said.
After Green, 27, went missing, Abanto said Li told investigators she last saw him at a restaurant when cellphone data linked his whereabouts to her house.
″(Li and Green) had a contentious custody battle,” Abanto said. “As he kept asking for more money, she got angry. She told her friends ‘He’s just about the money, not about the kids.’”
The defense countered that Adella killed Green in a botched kidnap plot and said investigators overlooked crucial evidence in their quest to pin the crime on Li and Bayat.
Li and Green had already settled their custody dispute before he went missing, said defense attorney May Mar. She played a recording of a phone conversation where Li offered to fly the children to see their father when Green contemplated moving to Ohio.
“As soon as Keith went missing, fingers pointed at Tiffany,” Mar said. “They had a custody issue. It’s clear their relationship was not so contentious that she ever would have wanted him harmed or killed.”
She said detectives overlooked evidence such as Green’s blood found in the parking lot of Adella’s apartment building and signs Green may have struggled to free himself from the trunk from Adella’s vehicle. She also presented communications Adella made with two associates on “burner” cellphones commonly used to thwart investigators in the hours before the victim went missing.
Prosecutors claimed Bayat’s motive was that he didn’t want Green to interfere with his relationship with Li.
As for Adella, he was originally charged with murder but struck a plea deal to testify during the trial as a prosecution witness. The plea deal was removed last month after authorities said he tried to contact a defense witness. This delayed the start of the trial.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Adella is due in court next month so a judge can decide whether he, in fact, violated the terms of his plea deal.
Green and Li met around 2009. He was a high school football star from a blue-collar neighborhood while Li was rich and educated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report