The teenage boy who shot and killed his friend Andy Zeng, 16, in a Silver Terrace home two years ago — and then horrifically botched an attempt to dispose of the body — was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter last summer, The San Francisco Examiner has learned.
The verdict mattered little to Zeng’s mother, Lian Hao Zhou — so much so that she only learned of it this week, according to Francis Chan, who had worked with the family through the San Francisco Community Response Network after the killing. She told Chan that no court result would bring back her son, he said.
Prosecutors had pursued murder charges against the teenage triggerman, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, but a Juvenile Court judge ruled in June that the killing was not done out of malice. The boy will likely be paroled at age 23.
The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 15 years and four months, but sources said the boy might be paroled at 23, a time by which convicts have “aged out” of the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice.
The shooter had claimed that he shot Zeng accidentally on April 10, 2011, while the two were playing with a .22-caliber handgun. The shooting occurred in a ground-floor unit of 2138 Quesada Ave., which the shooter’s father had been renting. But Zeng — described as a jovial sophomore at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School — was found by police in a room soaked in gasoline and with black garbage bags over his head and legs, according to court documents.
The body was found after the upstairs neighbors smelled the gas, police said.
The botched disposal was the most bizarre and perplexing aspect of the tragic case. According to court documents, the boy admitted to accidentally shooting Zeng in the back of the head. After the shooting, court documents show, the boy called three or four other teenagers, one of whom was referred to as a “fire expert,” to help get rid of the body.
That expert, then-18-year-old Jimmy Lei of San Francisco, reportedly showed up with latex gloves and three 1-gallon containers filled with gas. The group brought the body out of a closet, prosecutors said, and Lei recommended “cutting the deceased in half to make it easier.” After the 15-year-old refused to do so with a butcher knife, Lei reportedly suggested breaking Zeng’s legs.
The boys then doused the floor with gasoline, but police sources said the youths couldn’t ignite the fire because their matches were wet.
Lei struck a plea agreement with prosecutors in May and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Zeng’s mother still blames herself for her son’s death, Chan said. She said Zeng had called her that day to let her know he was hanging out with friends and had asked for a ride. The mother had been at work at a restaurant at the time, Chan said.
“Right now she’s trying to move on and live instead of bringing back those sad memories,” Chan said.