Published 5:18 pm, Monday, December 23, 2013
(12-23) 17:17 PST SAN FRANCISCO — A jury convicted a San Francisco man Monday of raping and murdering a woman in her Richmond District home in 1991, a prosecution based on a DNA match 17 years later.
After more than a week of deliberations, jurors convicted Otis Hughes, 61, of charges that carry a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The victim, Karen Wong, 39, had been a San Francisco Opera employee.
Wong’s brother found her half-naked body under a blanket in the study of her apartment on the 600 block of 47th Avenue. Police said the apartment had apparently been ransacked, but there was no sign of forced entry.
Hughes was sentenced to prison for burglary shortly after the killing. He was released in October 2008 and gave a DNA sample that matched evidence at the crime scene.
Assistant District Attorney David Merin told the jury the crime fit Hughes’ pattern of entering a building when residents were home, using an unlocked window or door, then arming himself with a knife from the kitchen.
Deputy Public Defender Stephen Rosen countered that Hughes had never before been accused of attacking a resident. He told the jury that the evidence was consistent with consensual sex between Hughes and Wong, and that the more likely killer was the victim’s boyfriend, described in testimony as one of the last people to see her alive.
Both sides cited entries in Wong’s diary – the defense noted her description of her boyfriend’s temper, while the prosecutor pointed to her declarations of love and her desire to make the relationship work. Rosen also said witnesses quoted the boyfriend as saying he had a key to the apartment and that he had an alibi for the time of the murder.
Rosen said Hughes will appeal the verdict.