When renowned Santa Barbara herbalist Dr. Henry Han was found shot dead in his home along with his wife, Jennie Yu, and their 5-year-old daughter, Emily Han, the community was shaken. The crime was heinous — a family killed while they slept, the youngest with eight shots to the head — and when a tip led to the arrest of Han’s business associate Pierre Haobsh, Santa Barbara’s District Attorney Joyce Dudley considered seeking the death penalty, adding enhancements for multiple murders, lying in wait, and murder for financial gain to each count.
Ultimately, Dudley and Haobsh’s attorneys agreed to a bench trial, with Judge Brian Hill alone deciding the verdict, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table. The court trial began in late October, stretching over five weeks of witness testimony and evidence tying Haobsh to the murders and eventually leading to him being found guilty on all counts.
Throughout the trial, shocking testimony and grim details told the story of how Haobsh planned and executed the murders, and the Santa Barbara Independent covered it every step of the way.
Witness Testimony Begins
In the first week of the trial, the prosecution team of Benjamin Ladinig and Hilary Dozer began calling up witnesses to build the foundation for their case, brick by brick. Lieutenant Rob Minter of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and Home Depot Corporate Manager Elena del Valle testified to evidence tying Haobsh to plastic sheeting and duct tape used to wrap the bodies, showing receipts and security footage of Haobsh buying the materials at Home Depot shortly before the murders. Haobsh’s friend and associate Thomas “TJ” Direda testified to Haobsh asking for help the day of the murders, including text messages that said: “Yep. Am screwed. They just found everything. My live’s [sic] over. Only if I got to it all sooner …”
Pierre Haobsh was quiet in the courtroom, sitting deep in his chair, staring blankly, and whispering only into the ear of his lead defense attorney, Christine Voss.
Two Chase Bank employees took the stand for the prosecution and presented evidence introducing the motive: attempted transfers from Han’s banking account to Haobsh’s. Voss countered that the transfers could have been scheduled by Han prior to his death.
More Evidence, Haobsh’s Interrogation Video
The prosecution called Detective Jeff McDonald, who conducted the four-hour interview with Haobsh shortly following his arrest. The court got a first glimpse into the mind of Haobsh when a video is played showing an increasingly agitated Haobsh denying evidence and attempting to divert the investigation away from himself as McDonald continued pressing. During the course of the interrogation, Haobsh switches from charming and lively to eventually withdrawn and quiet as McDonald lays out evidence. In the courtroom, Haobsh seems uncomfortable, leaning back with his eyes glued to the screen.
On a grim Friday hearing, the prosecution showed photos of the scene of the killings, Haobsh’s arrest at an Arco station in Bonsall, California, and more surveillance footage of a gun store purchase in Arizona. Lead investigator Travis Henderson testified to the evidence tying Haobsh to the weapons and a homemade suppressor found in his car.
A Dark Web History
In the third week of testimony, the prosecution retraced Haobsh’s steps, keystroke by keystroke, in the days leading up to and following the murders. Investigator Jeff Ellis took the stand and explained how the spyware on Haobsh’s laptop made it possible for investigators to prove how he stole Han’s personal information and gained access to his online banking account. Internet search history from Haobsh’s laptop and phone read like the diary of a killer: “What gun does James Bond use?” “How much money can you carry across the border?” “How long do fingerprints last on plastic sheeting?”
The web history also showed a chat between Haobsh and an online psychic, Count Marco, during which Haobsh asks: “Will I get caught for what I did?” The defense team of Voss and Michael Hanley contend that the web history could have been planted, though Ellis denies that the data were manipulated.
Defense Team Raises Doubt
As the defense cross-examined witnesses, and then brought up its own witnesses, Voss and Hanley poked holes wherever there were inconsistencies. When cell phone records showed Haobsh in the area of the Han residence the day of the killings, Voss questioned the reliability of the records, showing that several of the lines of data used to place Haobsh near the scene also show him in two locations at once — in Oceanside one minute, and in Santa Barbara two minutes later. Ellis contended that these inconsistencies are usually due to the ranges of cell towers.
The defense then called Dr. Brent Turvey to testify over Zoom, to refute the testimony of the prosecution’s ballistics expert, Dave Barber, who matched casings found at the scene to the Ruger .22 pistol found in Haobsh’s possession. Turvey cited a study that called into question the entire methodology of ballistics matching and said no bullet could ever “empirically” be matched to a gun. His testimony included long-winded non-answers and objections from both sides, leading to several terse exchanges between Dozer, Hanley, and the witness.
Haobsh Spins a Story on the Stand
The defense’s final witness was Haobsh himself. Over the three final days of the trial, he testified that he had created a perpetual energy machine, had self-diagnosed an “incurable” cancer, evaded armed federal operatives, and eventually fell victim to a frame-job at the hands of either the Department of Energy or the “Chinese Mafia.”
Prosecutor Ladinig waded through Haobsh’s web of a story to find a few unimpeachable truths, proving for the record Haobsh’s history of lying to friends and associates. And when Ladinig projected slides of the autopsy photos of the three victims, Haobsh shuddered and refused to look at the screen.
Later, during closing remarks, Ladinig called Haobsh a “lying liar who lies about lying,” and said “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.”
A Quick Verdict
After closing statements, Judge Hill wasted no time in rendering his verdict the day before Thanksgiving. He found Haobsh guilty on all three counts, including all applicable enhancements for each crime. A hearing for sentencing will be on January 24, 2022, where Haobsh faces multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.