Douglas Lomas and Stephanie Ching, the husband and wife accused in the May 2019 homicide and dismemberment of Ching's elderly father in an Outer Mission home they shared, received relatively light sentences Tuesday following plea deals with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. Defense attorneys successfully argued that there was no evidence of malice before the killing, and prosecutors reportedly had difficulty establishing who did what to whom first, with the defense claiming Lomas acted in self-defense.
Lomas, 45, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and will serve six years in prison for the death of 73-year-old Benedict Ching. Stephanie Ching pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact, and desecration of human remains, and she's being released from jail on three years probation. The couple has two children with whom they attempted to flee the country shortly after the killing. Lomas and Ching were subsequently detained in China and extradited back to the U.S.
Early accounts from neighbors on Del Monte Street in the Outer Mission suggested that Lomas and Ching had moved into the elder Ching's home in early 2019, and that frequent fighting had been heard inside the home after that.
But after the dismembered remains of Benedict Ching were discovered by another daughter and Ching's boss — amid a gruesome scene in which plastic tarping had been hung, a saw was found alongside remains in a bathtub, and blood had not been fully cleaned up — the DA's office vowed to bring the case to justice.
As the Examiner reported after the plea deals became public, the family of the victim had been consulted throughout the plea negotiation process. Complicating issues for a potential conviction were several factors, including a claim by the defense that Ching had attacked Lomas first, and that the Medical Examiner's Office had never determined a cause of death.
Despite the reports of fighting and neighbors saying they heard thumps against the house walls around the time of the homicide, Lomas's public defender said there was no evidence of "malice."
"This was a terrible set of circumstances for a very complicated family," said Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon in a statement. "Mr. Lomas was acting in self-defense following an attack by his father-in-law, who later died. The DA could not prove that Mr. Lomas committed murder because there was zero evidence of malice."
But a reporter for the Chinese-language newspaper World Journal, Han Li, reported on Twitter late Tuesday that at least one representative for Ching's family, Karen Tom, expressed anger during the virtual sentencing hearing. Li reports in World Journal that Tom told District Attorney Chesa Boudin that not all of the family accepted these plea agreements and they were not aware that they could protest them.
Boudin reportedly gave a speech during the call expressing sympathy for the victim's family, and saying that there had been disagreement among the large number of family members when it came to the plea deals. Some family members reportedly did not want the case to go to trial, because of the trauma involved.
Further complicating the case, as World Journal reports, were reports of domestic abuse by the father against the daughter, which the judge reportedly mentioned in the hearing.
"Chinese reporters were still discussing this case till late night after today's sentencing," Li wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. "It is a horrific family tragedy, creating uncomfortable feelings. But frustratingly, it got little attention outside of Chinese media, even [as] the family spoke up and protested the plea deal."