Pierre Haobsh was found guilty on all charges Wednesday by Judge Brian Hill in the triple-homicide case that prosecutors called “one of the most unspeakable horrors and murders” in Santa Barbara history.
In the juryless bench trial, Judge Hill rendered a guilty verdict on each of the three counts of felony first-degree murder, also finding that the severity of each crime called for all applicable enhancements, including special allegations for murder for financial gain, multiple murders, and lying in wait.
The verdict brings closure to a case that began when Dr. Henry Han, described by prosecutor Benjamin Ladinig as “one of Santa Barbara’s most beloved healers, and a beacon of light,” was left bullet-ridden — shot to death in his sleep along with his wife, Jennie Yu; and their 5-year-old daughter, Emily Han, in the early morning hours of March 23, 2016. Han and his wife took three bullets each to the head, while Emily was shot eight times.
Haobsh was arrested three days after the murders following a tip from his friend and associate Thomas “TJ” Direda, who provided detectives with information that would lead them to find out Haobsh had committed the killings after incorporating a business with Han, called Obsidian Teradyne, that aimed to synthesize CBD for herbal medicine.
A “mountain of evidence,” as Ladinig described it, from the prosecution team of Ladinig and Hilary Dozer proved how Haobsh carried out the crime: Cell phone records, video surveillance, and internet history traced Haobsh as he researched and purchased the weapon in Arizona, and then captured him at Home Depot buying the materials for a homemade suppressor and the plastic sheeting and duct tape used to wrap the three bodies.
Screenshots from his own laptop and phone showed how he stole Han’s information using spyware and gained access to his Chase online banking account in an attempt to transfer $77,000 to his own account. But not even Haobsh’s own testimony — a sprawling and fantastic account of a life full of secret operatives, perpetual energy prototypes, and miracle cancer cures — could explain what may be the biggest question, which at one point was asked by the defendant himself as he was questioned by Ladinig earlier in the morning on Wednesday.
“Why would somebody shoot her eight times?” Haobsh asked, while an autopsy photo of his youngest victim, Emily, was shown on the screen in Judge Hill’s Department 2 courtroom. Haobsh refused to look at the screen, except through the corner of his eye, as Ladinig flipped through the photos of the three victims.
“I don’t know; why did you?” Ladinig fired back.
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Haobsh denied any involvement and added to his previous day of testimony by telling his side of the story, which by any account was hard to believe. He told friends he was going into FBI protective custody, that he was a DEA informant, that he was in a Hollywood movie development deal, and later that he was dying of “incurable cancer” and had only a few months to live.
On the stand, Haobsh denied sending messages sent from his phone on a case-by-case basis; some he remembered in great detail, while others he said could not possibly have come from him. He is hesitant to call them lies — they are “exaggerated,” “not completely accurate,” or “taken out of context.”
He didn’t have cancer, he admitted, but thought he was exposed to a cancer-causing chemical that he said had the potential to cause his cells to mutate. Through work in his home lab, he said he performed cell studies and was able to overcome the health scare.
“So your testimony is that you cured cancer and created a free energy machine?” Ladinig asked.
Haobsh sent multiple faked screenshots of bank accounts worth $2.7 million, $85 million, and one for $940 million, using an HTML-editing trick often used by teenagers changing their grades to show their parents. The trick allows somebody to change the text on a website to say whatever they want, without changing any actual content of the page.
At one point, Ladinig brought up a text from Haobsh to a girlfriend, Allie, admitting to lying about the account. But even then he does not concede, testifying that he did in fact have the money in various accounts set up by the Department of Energy, but told Allie he lied about it because he thought she would “just be asking for money.”
During the prosecution’s closing statement, Ladinig referred to Haobsh as “a lying liar who lies about lying,” and dismissed his theories of hacking, planted evidence, and Department of Energy conspiracies as far-fetched and unbelievable.
“The notion of a frame job is so far outside this universe that no human being with any semblance of common sense would believe it,” Ladinig said.
The defense team of Christine Voss and Michael Hanley fought against the notion that Haobsh’s story was implausible, and Voss was able to sow doubt in various aspects of the prosecution’s case.
Voss questioned the experts called by Dozer and Ladinig and said that investigators did not adequately pursue other suspects or theories once Haobsh was fingered as a suspect. She also pointed to the polarizing testimony of Dr. Brent Turvey, who called into doubt the law enforcement’s entire methodology of matching weapons to ammunition. Turvey said that there is no empirical, scientific way to truly prove a bullet was fired from a specific gun.
Haobsh waived his right to a jury trial in exchange for the District Attorney’s Office taking the death penalty off the table, agreeing to leave his fate instead in the hands of Judge Hill, who ultimately decided that the evidence stacked against the defendant was too much to ignore.
“The evidence in my mind proves beyond any possible doubt, any shadow of a doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that he is guilty,” Hill said.
Haobsh will return to court for sentencing at 9 a.m. on January 24, 2022. He faces a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.