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Attacker killed Santa Barbara family, wrapped them in plastic, police say

A business associate of a well-known practitioner of holistic medicine was arrested Friday in connection with what authorities called the “diabolical, premeditated” slayings of the herbalist, his wife and 5-year-old daughter.

Pierre Haobsh, 27, of Oceanside was arrested in San Diego County early Friday on suspicion of the murders of Weidong Henry Han, 57; Huijie “Jennie” Yu, 29; and their daughter, Emily, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. A loaded 9-millimeter handgun and property belonging to one of the victims was found inside Haobsh’s car.

The slain couple ran a popular Chinese herbal clinic on State Street, and Han was the author of several Chinese medicine books.

Investigators think Haobsh was recently involved in a business transaction with Han, Brown said. Detectives are still investigating the motive for the killings, which they said may have been financial.

“This investigation is far from over,” Brown said. “It is complex and ongoing.”

Han’s colleagues became concerned about his whereabouts when he uncharacteristically failed to show up Wednesday morning for a meeting in Los Angeles, Brown said. Two associates later went to Han’s home, a gated 7-acre ranchette at the top of a hill off the 101 Freeway.

The front door was ajar, and they could see the family cars parked in the garage.

The two immediately notified sheriff’s deputies, who found the victims’ bodies, wrapped in plastic and duct tape, in the garage, Brown said.

Preliminary indications are that all three suffered gunshot wounds. Han’s wife and daughter were last seen about 7 p.m. Tuesday, and Han was last seen at 10 p.m. the same day.

News of the killings sent shock waves through the holistic medicine community.

Han’s patients arrived Friday at his clinic, the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic, carrying colorful bouquets and handwritten notes.

One note read: “Your brillance will be missed by so many. Thank you for giving your life back to me, Dr. Han.”

Irma Russell collected the flowers and arranged them on a table, creating a memorial for a man who touched many in Santa Barbara.

For almost half her life, Russell said, Han had treated her for back pain and chronic flu-like symptoms.

“You just knew he was going to fix it,” said Russell, 71. “He worked magic.”

Patient Ron Rakow, 78, described Han as a “national treasure.”

“His life was solving insolvable problems,” said Rakow, who suffers from an incurable lung disorder and has breathing problems. Han mixed several herbs into a tea, which Rakow drank daily. His breathing improved, and he can now exercise several hours a day.

“This is a sacred place where people come here broken and get fixed,” Rakow said, adding that he was heartbroken to learn of the family’s death.

Earlier this week, he received a call from Han’s daughter, who invited him to her sixth birthday party on Saturday. She was a kindergartner at Foothill Elementary School, just two miles from her home.

The Goleta Union School District was providing counseling services and support to families whose children attend Foothill Elementary, Supt. William Banning said.

“Yesterday our community was confronted by the tragic loss of lives due to violence,” he said in a statement Friday. “Words cannot begin to express the deep sadness that has overcome us.”

Community Centered Oriental Medicine, a clinic in Santa Barbara, called the deaths a “tragic loss.” Han was “the real thing, and [we] will miss him dearly,” the clinic said in a statement.

“Henry helped hundreds of people in this area with his knowledge of Chinese herbal medicine,” the clinic said. “A graduate of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, he practiced here for years treating very difficult and complicated illnesses, especially cancer.”

Jennings reported from Santa Barbara, Rocha from Los Angeles.

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

March 26, 9:38 a.m.: This article was updated with information about a memorial at the doctor's office.

March 25, 9:20 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional reporting.

March 25, 5:34 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Weidong Han's patients. 

March 25, 3:25 p.m.: This article was updated with new information about an arrest and additional comments.

March 25, 12:39 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from members of the holistic medicine community.

March 25, 10:12 a.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the Goleta Union School District.

March 25, 7:51 a.m.: This article was updated with details on the investigation.

11:19 p.m.: This article was updated with the identities of the victims.

5:12 p.m.: This article was updated with details about the killings.

This article was originally published on March 24 at 11:09 a.m.

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