A Chinese heiress, who dodged the inside of a jail cell by posting a staggering $35 million bond, is on trial this week in California for the murder of the father of her children.
Tiffany Li, the daughter of an affluent Chinese real estate developer, is accused of killing her 27-year-old Keith Green in 2016, which prosecutors allege was motivated by the woman’s fear she would lose custody of her two children, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The woman’s boyfriend at the time, Kaveh Bayat, is also accused of participating in the murder plot.
Prosecutors say Li lured Green to her mansion’s garage, where Bayat shoved a gun into his mouth, shattered a tooth, and pulled the trigger, according to local station KPIX-TV. The couple allegedly paid Bayat’s friend Oliver Adella $35,000 to dump Green’s body on the side of the road in Sonoma County, and subsequently crafted alibis.
In opening statements on Monday, Li’s legal team argued that Green’s killing was carried out by Adella, in what they alleged was a kidnapping gone wrong — and that authorities ignored evidence in their investigation.
“The prosecution is prosecuting a case, but they have the wrong people on trial,” John May, Bayat’s attorney, told KPIX-TV.
Adella, who was expected to be the number one witness for the prosecution, will no longer testify after accusations he engaged in witness tampering. He had previously agreed to plead guilty as an accessory to murder.
“They still have a case, it’s just entirely different, one would argue less strong,” Li's attorney Geoff Carr, told Oxygen.com. "Mr. Adella clearly had something to do with the failed kidnapping. Why Mr. Green's dead, where the failed kidnapping occurred, why he ends up getting shot — it's a mystery."
“The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that it was Mr. Adella, in the company of others such as those we named in our opening statement, and the evidence is lacking as it relates to Tiffany Li,” May Mar, another of Li's attorneys, also said.
The case largely hangs on cell phone records, which prosecutors will attempt to use to tie Li and Bayat to the murder scene.
Li’s case has drawn significant attention, particularly over the steep amount of her bond, which has allowed the accused killer to reside at her swank Bay-area estate in the time it's taken for her case to come to trial. Bayat, Li’s co-defendant, hasn’t posted his multimillion dollar bail and is currently incarcerated, according to online court records.
“Large bonds of this nature are very rare. For a period of time for wealthy defendants they became more frequent, at least in white collar cases,” criminal defense attorney Jim Walden told Oxygen.com.
Walden represented Raj Rajaratnam, the disgraced Sri Lankan-American hedge fund manager, who posted a $100 million bond in 2009, one of the largest ever recorded.
“Some courts have even criticized the practice because it creates disparities between wealthy and poor defendants,” he added.
Decades ago, Wall Street magnate Michael Milken also made headlines for posting a $250 million bail after being implicated in a massive insider trading scheme, according to Business Insider.
Li’s trial was partially delayed following a breast cancer diagnosis, which her legal team said is now in remission.
Li had met first met Green, a high school football star, in 2009 when the pair were in their early 20s. He was from a "blue collar neighborhood," according to the Los Angeles Times.
The case is expected to last about two months.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.