Prosecutors contend the defendant was broke and desperate and decided to rob a prostitute “to get fast money.”
A King County jury deliberated for about a day before finding a 32-year-old Newcastle man guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday for the brutal March 2015 knife attack on a Bellevue woman.
The jury of six men and six women also found Song Wang guilty of first-degree arson for setting fire to clothing inside the woman’s closet in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.
The fire, which was doused by sprinklers before it could spread, resulted in the body of Kittaporn Saosawatsri, 37, being quickly discovered by firefighters inside her sixth-floor unit at the Avalon Meydenbauer, a luxury apartment complex on Bellevue Way.
Wang is to be sentenced Jan. 20.
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The state’s theory of the crime was that Wang was broke and desperate and decided to rob a prostitute “to get fast money,” Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mark Larson told jurors during closing arguments on Wednesday.
Wang’s girlfriend had just kicked him out and he was living in the SUV he’d stolen from her, Larson said. He had also gambled away $25,000, scammed three people who were pursuing legal action against him and was worried about being deported back to China, he added.
But Saosawatsri — who had hidden $1,200 under her refrigerator and jewelry, credit cards and electronics around her apartment — resisted handing over her valuables and was viciously stabbed as Wang grew increasingly frustrated with her, he said.
Defense attorney Jesse Dubow acknowledged that Wang had been inside Saosawatsri’s apartment and had stolen a purse and watch that he later tried to pawn in Portland. But Dubow said Saosawatsri was the victim of a mystery killer who was also responsible for setting the fire.
He noted Wang’s DNA didn’t match male blood found on a handrail in the stairwell closest to Saosawatsri’s unit.
“From far away, it looks compelling but when you zoom in, you see too many holes and reasons to doubt,” Dubow said of the state’s case against Wang.
During Wang’s trial, which began Dec. 1, jurors heard that Wang used a pseudonym when he opened a new phone account on the morning of March 31, 2015. He hid his identity as he contacted numerous women who had posted ads offering sex for money on backpage.com.
Saosawatsri, who worked alone in a high-end apartment building, was contacted by Wang and he was seen on video-surveillance footage leaving the parking garage, getting buzzed into her building and riding the elevator to the sixth floor just before 8 p.m. that night. About an hour later, Wang was seen returning to the parking garage carrying a large bag, according to the video that was played for the jury.
Jurors also viewed autopsy photos, which showed a series of superficial knife wounds across Saosawatsri’s breasts, which Larson said were inflicted by Wang as he tried to force Saosawatsri to turn over her cash and valuables.
Saosawatsri then suffered a stab wound to her heart, then was stabbed 10 times in the back, Larson said.
After ransacking the apartment, Wang used a lighter to torch clothing hanging in Saosawatsri’s closet, he said.
Wang’s DNA was later found in Saosawatsri’s bathroom sink and her DNA was found on his shirt when he was arrested a week later in Northern California. Jurors also heard a recorded jail phone call in which Wang admitted to a friend he’d killed someone.