Tianyu “Tommy” Lyu was reported missing to Bellevue police in November after he failed to meet up with friends.
Two months later, prosecutors say, King County sheriff’s detectives learned a former Newcastle man confessed to police in China that he had fatally stabbed Lyu, 24, in a drug-related dispute.
Henry Gao, a 25-year-old Taiwanese national, was arrested Monday at the San Francisco International Airport before he could board a flight home and has since been charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree rendering criminal assistance. He is accused of helping Lyu’s suspected killer clean up the homicide scene and hide Lyu’s body in the Wenatchee National Forest, charging papers say.
Gao is currently in custody at the San Mateo County Jail, in California, jail and court records show. He is scheduled to be arraigned in King County Superior Court on Feb. 17.
King County sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Meyer said Friday the investigation into Lyu’s apparent homicide is ongoing. Lyu’s remains have not been located.
Lyu, Gao and Lyu’s suspected killer were all involved in dealing marijuana here, charging papers say. Detectives learned Gao arrived in the U.S. in June on a tourist’s visa, fleeing Taiwan after he was convicted in a marijuana distribution case but before he could be sentenced, say the charges. A warrant for his arrest was issued by Taiwanese authorities Sept. 10, according to the charges filed in King County.
The Seattle Times in not naming the man police suspect killed Lyu because he has not been criminally charged here. China does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Though the charges filed against Gao don’t say how the man came to be in police custody in China, his statement about the killing was confirmed in official police documents Chinese authorities provided to the U.S. State Department.
Based on those documents, sheriff’s detectives learned the homicide was committed on Nov. 22 at a condo in the 13600 block of Southeast 66th Court in Newcastle and obtained a warrant to search the residence, according to the charges filed against Gao.
Despite the obvious attempt to clean the condo, detectives found a significant amount of blood evidence and empty bleach bottles, the charges say.
Video-surveillance footage obtained by detectives showed a Lexus and a Maserati — vehicles associated with the suspected killer and Gao, respectively — arrived at the Newcastle condo complex shortly before a BMW, consistent with Lyu’s car, drove up on Nov. 22, say the charges against Gao. Lyu’s cell phone stopped producing data a little after 5 p.m. that day at or near the Newcastle address.
The footage also showed the Lexus leaving the Newcastle condo at 6 p.m. and returning just after 11:30 p.m.
Detectives also obtained cell phone data from the suspected killer’s phone that showed it traveled east on Highway 2 over Stevens Pass, then through the Wenatchee National Forest before returning to Newcastle hours later, according to the charges.
The morning after Lyu was allegedly killed, Gao drove Lyu’s BMW to Bellevue and parked it across the street from Lyu’s apartment building, then used Lyu’s key fob to enter Lyu’s apartment, say the charges.
During the investigation, detectives also learned Gao and Lyu’s suspected killer had traded in a Lexus SUV to a car dealer in the Portland area on Nov. 25, say the charges.
The vehicle was seized by Portland police Monday at the request of King County sheriff’s detectives and a preliminary search found blood in the passenger compartment, according to the charges against Gao.
Following Gao’s arrest at the San Francisco airport, the charges say detectives here learned he had purchased a plane ticket to Taiwan hours before the flight was to depart.