There is still no smoking gun or particularly revealing detail in a recent deposition given in a civil case by heiress and acquitted murder suspect Tiffany Li. But opening up Li and her ex-boyfriend Kaveh Bayat to new questioning about the 2016 murder of Keith Green could, maybe, finally lead to a murder conviction if new information comes to light.
"The case is not closed because when it comes to a homicide it’s never closed," says San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe this week to KRON4. "But it’s fair to say it’s inactive."
Wagstaffe declined to re-file charges after the 2019 trial, and he says he won't unless new evidence comes to light.
Starting in January, though, the case will be back in the news via a civil trial that's been brought by Green's mother, Colleen Cudd. Cudd is suing all three parties in the case — Li, Bayat, and accomplice Olivier Adella — for wrongful death, and is seeking damages.
Green was in a relationship with Li for over 12 years and the two had two daughters together. Six months prior to Green's disappearance and murder in April 2016, Green and Li had broken up, and she had kicked Green out of the mansion they had shared in Hillsborough. (Li, who was raised in California, is heiress to a Chinese construction fortune estimated to be around $100 million.)
On April 28, 2016, Green and Li met in the parking lot of Millbrae's Pancake House. The two had been in a custody battle over their daughters, and prosecutors say Li had become angry with Green for repeatedly asking her for money.
According to Li's defense at trial in 2019, Li had no motivation to kill Green because the two had allegedly come to an agreement that night and were on good terms. It all gets fishy, however, because Li sent Bayat a text message that night saying only "green light," which prosecutors believe was an agreed-upon signal to go forward with Green's murder.
Bayat, a mixed martial arts fighter who Li says was also Green's weed dealer, had only just moved into Li's Hillsborough home a few months earlier, after her breakup with Green. And now, from the deposition obtained by KRON4, we learn that Bayat got a tattoo of Li on his torso sometime in that six-month timeframe, while on a trip to Las Vegas.
"Did Kaveh Bayat get a tattoo of your face on his stomach?" an attorney asks.
"Yes," Li replies.
"And in the middle of his stomach, there’s a panda holding two firearms. Correct?"
"Yes," Li replies.
Li claims that she left Green in the Pancake House parking lot and went to an apartment building in the area, which happened to be home to Adella. (And Adella, had been sitting in his car in the parking lot observing her meeting with Green, she says at Bayat's command and she was unaware of it.) Li says she went there to collect a rent check — her parents owned several apartments in the complex.
As we learned from the trial, the only blood evidence found at Li's house was in two sinks, one of which was in Bayat's "man cave." Blood traces were also found in Adella's car, which he quickly sold after the murder. Adella says he was hired to dispose of the body in Sonoma County, but he had nothing to do with the killing — though he had been asked to do it.
Li has maintained her innocence, and a jury in 2019 believed her defense, which would mean that either Bayat or Adella killed Green without her knowledge. It defies logic, but the jury was also hung on Bayat's guilt or innocence, based on the evidence, so a mistrial was declared and Bayat is out free. Li claims in the deposition that the last time she spoke to him was the day in 2016 when a SWAT team descended on their home and arrested them.
There's also a fairly saccharine detail that sounds absolutely coached by Li's attorneys: Days after her arrest and after retaining counsel, she wrote a letter to the deceased Green saying she was sorry and "I chose to date Kaveh and bring bad people around me." She continued, "I’m always so fucking stupid like you always would tell me before. Everyone thinks I have something to do with this, but only you know the truth."
Attorneys in the civil case will be trying to pin the orchestration of the murder on Li. They asked in the deposition, "Ms. Li, isn’t it true that you manipulated Kaveh Bayat into thinking that Keith Green was a dangerous person? And isn’t it true that you manipulated Kaveh into thinking that Keith was a threat to your family? And isn’t it true that you manipulated Kaveh Bayat into thinking that Keith was a threat to your relationship? Isn’t it true that things got out of hand and Kaveh Bayat took it upon himself to move Keith Green from your life?" She of course denies this.
One detail that seems mistaken in the deposition: Li says that she began dating Green in 2000, claiming that he was 14 and she was 17 at the time. But if she is 36 now, she would have 15 in 2000, and Green would have been 11 or 12 in 2000, so that doesn't quite add up.
Bayat's "bodyguard" Adella — whose real name is Mustapha Traore, as we learned from a passport fraud case that he was later convicted in — remains strident and angry that he was the "fall guy" in the murder, and he tells defense attorneys for Li in the civil case that he "can't wait" to testify in the civil trial and tell what he knows. It appears that Adella would be used as a defense witness to deflect blame away from Li? Or else he has it confused about who was asking him questions in the deposition.
"My goodness, money is really evil," Adella says. "And I’m being sued too. I understand why I’m being sued. You don’t see me crying, fighting for it. And I didn’t kill anybody. I got used, I got — I got set up as a fall guy. Your client did the killing."
Also: "Don’t worry, I’ll see you at the trial, my friend. Your client … she beat the murder trial, right, because the prosecutor … was just extremely negligent, extremely incompetent with the sheriff. But the civil trial? Come on, man, she’s not going to beat that. She killed the father of her two kids."
Adella admits, though, that he never directly heard from Li that she wanted Green dead — he says it was Bayat who told him to "get rid" of Green. Adella claims that he told them he couldn't do that to a person unless they were directly threatening him or his family.
Adella says to make no mistake about who was orchestrating things.
"Now, who offers $50,000 to scare someone?" Adella says of the initial offer made to him. "Yes they meant to kill him. They both hated him. She really, really, really hated him. Ultimately, they went and killed him and brought the dead body to me."
Li and Bayat allegedly ended up paying him $35,000 to dispose of Green's body. Adella would end up pleading guilty to being an accessory and he served three years in prison, as well as additional time on the passport fraud charge.
Li is currently living in China and gave her deposition remotely. Adella is reportedly living in the North Bay, and Bayat's whereabouts have not been publicized.