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Suspect In California Dentist’s ‘Heinous’ Murder-For-Hire Plot Dies In Police Custody

“This is not a case about race or hate,” Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said following the death of dentist Lili Xu, whose partner has been accused of orchestrating her killing.

By Dorian Geiger
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

A 73-year-old retired financial advisor accused of orchestrating the murder-for-hire plot of his girlfriend, a prominent Oakland dentist, died by suicide following his arrest last week.

Police say Nelson Chia contracted Hasheem Bason, 33, to kill Lili Xu, who was fatally shot in August, in what detectives then-suspected to be a robbery-related homicide, The Associated Press reported.

Chia was found dead in a Santa Rita Jail holding cell around 2 p.m. on Friday, a day after he and Bason were arrested in connection with Xu’s killing, according to The East Bay Times.  

Lt. Ray Kelly, a public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, confirmed to Oxygen.com Thursday that Chia died "via suicide (hanging) in a solo person jail intake cell." 

RELATED: Woman Receives Life In Murder-For-Hire Plot To Kill Her Ex's Former Brother-In-Law

On Aug. 21, Xu was gunned down while exiting a vehicle in the Little Saigon district of Oakland shortly after 2 p.m., Bay Area television station KRON-TV reported. Surveillance recordings, which captured the deadly incident, showed a white car parking near Chia and Xu’s vehicle, according to ABC affiliate WLS-TV. The couple had just left a spa, per the Associated Press.

At the time, Nelson suggested to WLS-TV that the murder was race-related.

Police handouts of Nelson Chia and Hasheem Bason

Shortly after the Xu’s murder, Chia, who wasn't harmed in the incident, told local media outlets that his recollection of his longtime partner’s slaying was murky. Authorities now say Bason fired the gun that killed Xu. It’s unclear how the two men know each other.

Prosecutors, however, contend that Chia and Bason aimed to profit from Xu’s killing. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley described the alleged botched murder plot as a “heinous, senseless crime.” Officials haven’t specified the exact alleged financial motive in the Oakland dentist’s homicide. 

Prior to Chia’s death, prosecutors had sought special enhancement murder charges against him in response to the the shooting’s alleged financial motive.

The slaying of Xu, who was active and well-known in Oakland’s Chinatown community, prompted concerns this summer that her death could be tied to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that swept the U.S. in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oakland authorities stated at a press conference on Friday, according to the East Bay Times, that Xu’s killing “did not seem to be a typical robbery-related murder.”

“This is not a case about race or hate but about greed,” Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said, laying to rest suspicions Xu’s murder was fueled by racial bias.

Chia had reportedly lived with Xu for upwards of a decade, per the East Bay Times report. Xu, who operated a number of dental practices in the Oakland-area, celebrated her 60th birthday just weeks before her death, according to San Francisco outlet KGO-TV. She immigrated to the U.S. from Shanghai in 1995.

According to reports, Bason is listed on the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour website; in 2007, he reportedly was involved with pro tennis matches. 

Bason is being held without bail and is scheduled to face arraignment next week.

No other information was immediately released by authorities regarding the open case.

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