US & Canada

Heiress Tiffany Li found not guilty of murdering ex-boyfriend

Tiffany Li, pictured against a grey background in a handout photo Image copyright San Mateo County Sheriff's Office
Image caption Tiffany Li now intends to spend time with her family in China, her lawyer said

A Californian property heiress accused of murdering the father of her two children over a custody battle has been acquitted by a jury.

Tiffany Li, 34, was found not guilty of conspiring with her boyfriend to kill Keith Green, 27, and dispose of his body in 2016.

Prosecutors accused Ms Li of orchestrating the murder because she feared losing custody of her daughters.

Ms Li, a Chinese-born property manager, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case drew international attention after Ms Li posted $35m (£27m) bail, one of the highest amounts on record in the US.

After 12 days of deliberation, a jury acquitted Ms Li on Friday.

Her lawyer, Geoffrey Carr, said Ms Li's not guilty verdict had "nothing to do" with her wealth allowing her to build a strong defence team.

When the verdict was read, Ms Li wept and left the court hurriedly, AP news agency reported.

A mistrial was declared in the case against her boyfriend, Kaveh Bayat, after jurors became deadlocked over murder and conspiracy charges against him.

Mr Bayat, who denied the charges, was accused of shooting Mr Green in the mouth after helping Ms Li lure him into a trap.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he respected the decision of the 12 jurors who, he said, gave their "heart and soul".

"We are disappointed with the verdicts, since obviously we believe the evidence supported holding Ms Li accountable for the crimes," said Mr Wagstaffe.

Defence lawyer Geoffrey Carr said Ms Li intended to spend time with her family in China, where they made their fortune in property.

Speaking to reporters about the verdict, Mr Carr said: "It had nothing to do with money, it had to do with hard work done by... diligent lawyers."

What was the case against Ms Li?

Ms Li and Mr Green were involved in a row over the custody of their two children, prosecutors said.

On 28 April 2016 they met at a pancake restaurant near her home in Hillsborough, an area south of San Francisco, considered one of the wealthiest communities in the US.

Mr Green never returned home from the meeting. His body was found nearly two weeks later, about 80 miles (128km) away. He had been shot dead.

A week after that, Ms Li and Mr Bayat were arrested on suspicion of murder.

Image copyright San Mateo County Sheriff's Office
Image caption Kaveh Bayat was also accused of murder

Ms Li's bail - described as "mind boggling" in one news report at the time - was the highest ever posted in the county's history, Mr Wagstaffe told the LA Times.

In the trial, prosecutors said Mr Green's blood was found in Ms Li's Mercedes and gunshot residue was discovered in her garage.

But Ms Li's defence lawyers insisted she had nothing to do with Mr Green's death. They argued Mr Green was killed in a botched kidnap plot that Ms Li had no involvement with.

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