Pierre Haobsh — the man charged in the grisly triple murder of Santa Barbara herbalist Dr. Henry Han; his wife, Jennie; and their young daughter, Emily; in March 2016 — slouched in his chair in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom, silent for most of Friday’s witness testimony, which laid the foundation, brick by brick, in the prosecutors’ case against him.
This week marks the beginning of witness testimony in the murder trial, which seeks to bring closure five years after the Han family lost their lives in an act of violence, prosecutors say, at the hands of Haobsh.
The defendant himself didn’t react much. As the prosecution team of Hilary Dozer, co-counsel Benjamin Ladinig, and primary investigator Detective Travis Henderson called witnesses, Haobsh stared blankly.
He wore a white shirt, dark tie, and thick-rimmed glasses in the courtroom, more put together than in the preliminary hearing, where he appeared shackled and in the bright-orange County Jail jumpsuit.
On Friday, he stirred only a few times to lean over and whisper into the ear of his head defense attorney, Christine Voss, as the prosecution projected evidence on the screen before Judge Hill in Department 2 of Santa Barbara Superior Court: receipts, security cam footage, and bank statements tying Haobsh to the crimes.
The first steps of building the case against Haobsh came with the prosecution calling witnesses that could prove he had purchased items at Home Depot that were later found at the scene of the crime. Lieutenant Rob Minter of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and Home Depot Corporate Manager Elena del Valle were the first on the stand. Del Valle is Home Depot’s Western Division manager in charge of “organized retail crimes” and assisted detectives in procuring security camera footage and purchase receipts for three separate purchases at two Home Depot stores.
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Footage shows Haobsh at Home Depot in Oceanside on the morning before the Han family was found dead, purchasing two packages of plastic sheeting and two rolls of 3M duct tape — the same materials used to wrap the bodies of the victims.
According to del Valle’s testimony, from Fresno to San Diego, there were only four purchases that matched the items detectives described, and from those four, they were able to narrow it down to the single transaction on March 23, 2016. Further evidence showed Haobsh visited another Home Depot location in Vista, California, on at least two occasions to purchase a few more items, including brass piping and neoprene washers prosecutors believe were meant to fashion a homemade suppressor to be threaded onto a pistol. He was seen both on in-store and parking-lot security footage, entering a burgundy 2013 Lexus that he was driving when arrested.
The final two witnesses of the day were both Chase bank employees, branch manager Melissa Griffin and private-client banker Cesar Arellano. Ladinig projected images of bank statements, showing a failed transfer of $72,000 from Han’s bank account to Haobsh’s account, and another successful transfer of $5,000.
Arellano, who deals with clients with “high net worth” and was in charge of Han’s account, was asked about both transactions. The first was flagged in suspicion of fraud and denied, but when asked by Ladinig who received the $5,000, Arellano said: “The recipient was the defendant.”
Voss argued that it’s plausible that Han had set up transfers in advance, similar to scheduled payments, and that the two were in business and the transactions were legitimate.
The prosecution will call the rest of its witnesses next week, followed by the defense team’s witnesses. It’s expected that the trial will continue until Thanksgiving.