SAN FRANCISCO—Two men have been charged in the 2014 cold case murder of a homeless man who was stomped to death as he slept on the streets of San Francisco’s Financial District.
Forensic evidence in the case linked both Joseph Stull and David Peters, both 21, to the November 23, 2014 murder of Tai Lam, 67, who was homeless and disabled. He weighed less than 100 pounds and stood about 5 feet and 5 inches tall, according to reports.
“I’ve been a cop for 25 years, 10 in homicide. This was terrible. They were stomping on him. They were drop kicking the guy. And he absolutely did not do anything. He’s 100 pounds — a little, tiny, disabled Asian guy,” said Sgt. John Cagney to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2014.
One assailant still remains at large, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
Surveillance footage from the night of the attack depicts three suspects kicking and stomping Lam in the alcove of a building, where he had been sleeping—along the 100 block of Sutter Street at approximately 11 p.m. The suspects stopped attacking the victim when a car drove by, but resumed after the vehicle left the scene.
Another security camera captured footage of the three suspects smoking a cigarette on the steps of Crocker Galleria, near Montgomery and Post streets, after the attack.
Lam was found in his sleeping bag the next morning at approximately 7 a.m., “beaten almost unrecognizably,” Cagney told the Chronicle. Lam was transported to San Francisco General, where he died from his injuries he sustained.
Evidence collected from the scene did not match any DNA records in the crime database. The SFPD released the portions of the surveillance footage hoping the public could identify the attackers.
The case saw new developments when Stull was booked in Washington State on a stolen-car charge. Upon his arrest, a routine DNA sample was taken and entered into the evidence database, which provided the SFPD with a forensic match.
Stull later ended up in custody in Kootenai County, Idaho, where he was booked on a several charges, including, grand theft and possession of stolen property. On September 21, 2016 Cagney and his partner flew to Idaho to interrogate Stull regarding his possible involvement in the Lam case.
Stull confessed the attack was unprovoked and random. He gave authorities explicit details about the assault and his account led to the SFPD’s identification of Peters.
Police searched Peters’ Stockton residence and found evidence that corroborated his involvement in the murder. He confirmed his participation and was arrested on Tuesday, October 25, a spokesperson for the SFPD told San Francisco News.
“I don’t want to say anybody deserves to get killed,” said Cagney. “But in 95 percent of the homicides, they’ve made some choices where there was a potential for bad things to happen. Even when it is random, there’s something you can point to. You cut somebody off in traffic, you have an argument. Somebody might hit you or kick you, but not a sustained beat-down. I just don’t get it.”
Stull and Peters were both booked on charges of murder, robbery, elder abuse and assault with great bodily injury. They are each being held in lieu of a $5 million bail.
Both Stull and Peters were arraigned by Judge Edward Torpoco on Tuesday, November 2, at 9 a.m. in Department 11, according to San Francisco Superior Court records. Both suspects pleaded not guilty.