DNA links burglar to cold case murder

December 12, 2008 6:45:09 PM PST
A suspect has been formally charged in San Francisco in connection with a 17-year-old murder case -- an arrest that came because of DNA evidence.

In 1991, Karen Wong was a young political activist in San Francisco, profiled in the local documentary "Dialogues with Mad Women."

"I was a member of a Leninist organization; I have spent my adult life involved in politics," Wong said in the film.

But her role in the documentary ended before the filming was complete. Director Allie Light, remembers receiving the phone call telling her Wong had been murdered.

"After the murder occurred it was just impossible to work on the film for quite a long time," Light said.

Wong was stabbed to death in her flat in the city's Richmond District.

It was a crime that went unsolved for 17 years, until DNA evidence taken from the crime scene was linked to a convicted burglar, recently released from state prison.

In court Friday, that suspect, 56-year-old Otis Hughes was formally charged with murder with special circumstance and rape.

Joe Toomey with the San Francisco Police Department's cold case unit believes the suspect was a stranger, who may have broken into Wong's apartment.

"For this to happen and for her family and friends not to know what happened or why it happened or who did it all these years, hopefully, it'll give some closure," Toomey said.

For nearly two decades the mystery altered not only the lives of her friends and family but also the film she appeared in.

And while it is a story that will remain tragic, it is one that may now finally have an ending.

Hughes pled not-guilty to the charges, which could carry a sentence of life without possibility of parole. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris by policy does not seek the death penalty.


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