Suspect in murder of 70-year-old Cupertino man appears in court

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A murder suspect made his first court appearance in the disappearance and death of a 70-year-old Cupertino man, who he worked for. (Photos by Santa Clara County Sheriff's Dept.)

A murder suspect made his first court appearance in the disappearance and death of a 70-year-old Cupertino man, who he worked for.

Tommy Shwe was a school board member, realtor and respected member of the Chinese-American community. He was last seen January 17 in Sunnyvale.

His body was discovered in a shallow grave in the Tulare County town of Three Rivers.

Christopher Charles Ellebracht barely made his way into a San Jose courtroom on Monday, where he stood quietly in a doorway as he was arraigned on murder and financial elderly abuse charges.

The 38-year-old handyman is accused of abducting, strangling and burying Shwe, a man he worked for, in the mountains. His body was found in a shallow grave.

"Any loss of life is tragic, but the strangulation and soulless burial in an effort to cover and evade the pursuit of justice is especially troubling," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department says Shwe, a well-known businessman from Cupertino, was last seen at a 24-Hour Fitness in Sunnyvale.

On January 17, he never showed up for a work meeting at Coldwell Banker, where he worked as a sales associate. His family reported him missing and shortly thereafter, detectives discovered that Ellebracht, seen in a surveillance photo from a Morgan Hill ATM, tried to cash a forged $10,000 check belonging to Shwe.

"On January 20, the CHP was notified of a white cargo van abandoned in the mountain just outside Three Rivers, California. The van was registered to the suspect," Santa Clara County Sheriff Lt. Julian Quinonez said.

Detectives found Shwe's cellphone near the van and bloody clothing inside the van, along with a receipt from Home Depot for a shovel.

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newsmurderarrestelder abusecrimesanta clara countycourtcourt caseCupertino
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