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Man who blamed girlfriend’s killing on anti-Asian hate was behind murder-for-hire scheme, police say

A man in a jail booking photo
Nelson Chia, 73, died by suicide hours after he was arrested Friday on suspicion of orchestrating the killing of his girlfriend, authorities said.
(Alameda County Sheriff’s Office)
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A man who allegedly orchestrated his girlfriend’s murder in Oakland stood to gain millions from her death, according to court documents released Monday.

Nelson Chia, 73, was arrested Friday in connection with the Aug. 21 killing of his longtime girlfriend, 60-year-old Lili Xu. Chia killed himself in Santa Rita Jail a few hours after he was arrested, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said.

After Xu was shot to death, Chia cried and mourned his partner in interviews with local news outlets, telling a reporter for KGO-TV Channel 7 in San Francisco that he and Xu’s friends believed the crime to be motivated by anti-Asian hate, not an attempted robbery gone wrong.

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But according to Oakland police, Chia had hired his girlfriend’s killer and planned the attack in a scheme to commit murder for financial gain.

Chia was driving Xu’s vehicle when she was shot three times as she got out in Oakland’s Little Saigon neighborhood, police said. Officers found Chia and Xu lying side by side on the ground; Xu died after being taken to a hospital.

Video from a security camera shows someone pull up next to Xu’s vehicle in a white Lexus sedan, get out, then shoot her after a struggle, according to police. “Chia observed the entire incident,” police wrote.

Chia told police that Xu had $12 million to $14 million in assets including property, life insurance and trusts, and that he was the trustee and would be paid about $1 million from Xu’s life insurance policies.

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Nov. 1, 2022

Chia “gained and maintained control of numerous financial accounts belonging to Xu,” police said, and allegedly arranged the accounts so that he would receive an income from Xu’s estate for the rest of his life.

Hasheem Bason, 33, was also arrested in Xu’s killing and was charged Monday in Alameda County with murder. Police alleged in his arrest warrant that he agreed to kill Xu for Chia.

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Bason agreed to the plan in exchange for “a significant amount of money,” police said, adding that they found communications between Chia and Bason that show they conspired to kill Xu for financial gain.

“Chia and Bason planned the day, time and place of the murder,” police wrote. “Bason acquired a vehicle, recruited a driver, and waited to ambush Xu a block from the location of [her] appointment.”

The pair discussed how to “thwart law enforcement’s investigation,” with Bason telling Chia to “act like the victim” and to not identify anyone if shown a photo lineup, police said.

Police traced the license plate number on the Lexus to Bason, who matched with DNA samples taken from the trunk and from cartridges left at the scene.

Investigators served a search warrant at Bason’s house and found the gun used in Xu’s killing, police said.

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