SAN FRANCISCO (Debora Villalon/KTVU) A San Francisco man, missing since Mother's Day, is now considered a victim of foul play and police believe the suspect is someone he knew and trusted.
Piseth Chhay, 48, is a full-time Uber driver and early on, people wondered if that was somehow connected to his disappearance. A person of interest's car in this case was located at SFO Airport as the SFPD Special Victims Unit continues to investigate. Search warrants have been issued in the cities of Hayward and San Francisco.
Late Wednesday, SFPD identified Chhay's acquaintance, 48-year-old Bob Tang of San Francisco, as a person-of-interest in their investigation.
"I would like you to return my husband, " Chhay's wife, Rattana Kim, implored to KTVU while addressing Tang directly. "He has a family to come home to, and I'm begging of you, in your heart, to release him."
Kim says she knew on May 14, when her Chhay didn't return from seeing Tang, that something bad had happened, because her husband of 20 years would never abandon her and their sons, 8 and 11.
"It's hell. That's the only word I can describe right now," Kim told KTVU. "I feel like I woke up without soul, there's no spirit in me."
During early searches, and friends and family posted missing flyers around the city, speculation swirled around whether Chhay's ride-sharing job was somehow linked to his disappearance.
He wasn't working the day he vanished, but a recent passenger had left a phone in his car, and tracked him down. There was talk of a possible meet-up with a stranger.
Then, on Saturday, Chhay's Mercedes SUV was found stripped to its chassis in the Bayview district.
Police now say the vehicle was towed to the intersection where it was found, from another place in the neighborhood.
"We're not completely ruling out homicide, but we're not going to say it is," said SFPD Office Grace Gatpandan, explaining to reporters why police have zeroed in on Tang.
"Foul play is suspected because we did have an interview scheduled with Mr. Tang yesterday, and he did not show up for that interview. And there is a connection between the two."
Rattana Kim says the two families have been acquainted for about six years, meeting through mutual friends.
"We picnic, we do hiking, we do parties, especially for Halloween, New Years, all the time, there's no sign of animosity between them," Kim observed. "I don't know why he would want to hurt my husband. I wish I knew, they seemed to be friends."
Police have searched several properties of Tangs, including a warehouse in the Bayview, and another location in Antioch, searches that confirmed their suspicions.
"At this point, we have obtained evidence that might lead us to the location of Mr. Chhay and exactly what happend," said San Francisco Police Officer Grace Gatpandan.
The day Chhay drove away from his home, he said he was going to help Tang with some of his rental units. "We knew his friend owns apartment buildings," Chhay's cousin Sovanarath Chi told KTVU. "He thought he was going there to help, fix stuff up, but we heard he never showed up and was never heard from again."
That was apparently Bob Tang's version of events, until he dropped out of sight. Police believe he has fled to Cambodia. SFPD is working with the FBI to track him down as a fugitive. Police described Tang as an Asian male, 48 years old, about 5'4" and 130 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. His car is a 2004 silver Toyota Sienna SUV, with California license plate 5JOT221.
Chhay's wife says she is trying to remain optimistic. Even as the case turns more ominous, she reassures their sons, they will see their father again.
"In my heart, my husband's still alive. And he's out there somewhere . He is out there somewhere, and he has to come home."
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