Rare Marina killing sends shockwaves 

The killing of a popular salon owner in the Marina district has spooked neighbors who say they’re not used to looking over their shoulders in the typically quiet neighborhood.

Mai Banh, 37, of San Leandro, was found dead in the hair and nail salon she owned, Le Petit Salon, at 1325 Chestnut St. near Van Ness Avenue at 10 p.m. Sunday.

Her husband, Jeff Nguyen, reported Banh missing to the San Leandro Police Department at 6 p.m. Saturday. Nguyen found her in the salon the next night, police said.

Banh suffered from stab wounds and blunt trauma, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said.

The case is under investigation, and no arrests have been made, police said.

"It’s very disturbing when something like this happens," said San Francisco police Capt. Kevin Dillon, who oversees Northern Station in the Marina. "Violent crimes are very rare in that area."

The neighborhood’s last high-profile case was in December 2003, when a man shot 28-year-old Daniel Price after accosting his wife in front of their Cow Hollow home. The case remains unsolved, Dillon said.

On Thursday, flowers and cards clung to the door of Banh’s salon, which she opened a few years ago after working at Nice Cuts on Union and Fillmore streets. Banh graduated from Hilltop Beauty School in Daly City in the mid-’90s, a friend said. She had two young sons.

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"It shocked the neighborhood," said Issam Ahmadie, who owns a nearby salon. "I’ve been here for 25 years, and I’ve never heard of such a thing."

Ahmadie said he last saw Banh, whom he described as hardworking, at 5 p.m. Saturday on his way home. He said she was still working.

"She was successful at operating her shop. She was so busy, she gave us clients sometimes," he said.

Daniel Woo, who owns a cafe on the corner of Chestnut Street and Van Ness Avenue, said Thursday that he usually sees police patrolling the area when school lets out each day. But, he said, the police presence slows down in the evenings.

Woo said he was shocked and saddened by Banh’s killing, and that his customers have been shaken.

Another neighboring shop owner, Mei Ling, said she fears for her safety.

"I feel like I need to pay more attention," said Ling, who has been in the neighborhood for 14 years. "I’m keeping an eye out for strange people."

One passer-by, who didn’t want to give her name, said she saw a group of frightened girls walking by Banh’s shop a few nights ago. The woman said she had been considering moving out of the neighborhood, and Sunday’s homicide solidified her plans.

"A lot of people are really scared," she said.

Read the update posted April 26: Slain salon owner's husband arrested.

arocha@examiner.com

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