Keith Green was a popular but troubled Northern California high school football star who had recently washed out of college when he met Tiffany Li.
Li was a pretty, jet-setting daughter of a rich and powerful Chinese family who was born in Beijing and grew up in Silicon Valley.
She changed his life.
Then, according to prosecutors, she orchestrated his murder last year when she fell in love with another man after more than six years with Green.
That man, his “bodyguard” and Li have all been charged with first-degree murder. The men are jailed pending a September trial.
Li, however, called on her wealthy family and friends to post $4 million in cash and put up more than $60 million in Northern California real estate to secure bail and set her free before trial. The district attorney called the amount unprecedented in the region.
Her release on bail shocked Green’s family and friends and underscored just how wealthy and influential her family is.
Li’s attorney Geoff Carr says she had nothing to do with the murder and that’s why her family and friends took the financial risk they did to post her bail. Li and the two men have pleaded not guilty.
Court records show her mother and stepfather amassed a fortune through real estate investments and construction projects in China, including two Beijing skyscrapers. The documents show the family has properties in the Cayman Islands and St. Kitts, Caribbean island nations known for their lush beaches and strict financial privacy laws.
The couple’s story began around 2009. Li and Green met when he was 21 and she was 23 and quickly decided to live together. They first moved into an apartment owned by her mother, who disapprovingly told homicide detectives that Green grew marijuana in one of the bedrooms.
They soon moved into a newly built $7 million mansion in the exclusive San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough owned by her mother. Li gave birth to a daughter in 2012 and to a second daughter two years later, and the home was staffed with nannies, housekeepers and landscapers. The couple had their pick of exotic sports cars and SUVs to drive.
He liked tattoos. She talked about plastic surgery, according to court records.
Li held a master’s degree in business from the University of San Francisco, and her mother paid her $100,000 a year to help manage the family’s real estate holdings. Green had trouble finding work after convictions for theft and fraud as a minor, court records show.
Li’s mother told police she disapproved of Green because he drank and smoked marijuana, and he lost a construction job. She called him a “black hole” in the family. Still, she picked up the $40,000 annual tab for Green to attend Cordon Bleu Culinary School in San Francisco.
Those who knew him previously remember someone different.
Green grew up in a blue-collar neighbourhood in San Mateo, a high-tech, San Francisco Bay Area enclave. His parents divorced when he was young, and he was raised by his mother, family friend Angela Dunn said.
He ran into legal troubles, including a fraud case involving Macy’s gift cards, when he was a juvenile, according to court records.
Nonetheless, he was a popular high school athlete, and he had many friends when he died. Dunn said about 50 people attended an April 28 vigil marking the one-year anniversary of his death.
Steve Sell, Green’s high school football coach, said Green led the team to an undefeated season and a playoff win in 2005, earning a half-scholarship to Eastern Washington University. But he dropped out after a year and drifted from temporary job to unemployment.
“Tremendous athlete,” said Sell, who noted Green also played baseball and basketball. “Popular and funny.”
Li, meanwhile, was born in Beijing, and court records indicate her grandparents served in China’s army. She moved to Silicon Valley in 1992 with her younger brother, mother and stepfather and became a U.S. citizen in 2000. She attended six different private schools, including the prestigious Santa Catalina boarding school in Monterey.
Sometime after they met, Green introduced Li to his friend and that’s when the trouble began. Li and Kaveh Bayat soon began an affair.
Prosecutors say Li kicked Green out of the mansion in October 2015, closed their joint bank accounts and turned off his phone. Green went to live in the one-bedroom apartment of a family friend. Bayat moved into the mansion.
Green and Li began a legal battle over custody of their young daughters, eventually agreeing Green could gradually retain 50 per cent, starting with unsupervised weekend visits.
The first weekend visit was to take place April 30, 2016, but Green disappeared two days before.
Prosecutors say Green agreed to meet Li in a restaurant parking lot in Millbrae, near San Mateo, the night of April 28, 2016.
Li told detectives they sat in her car for about an hour, discussing their children, then Green left after an amicable talk. But court records show investigators tracked both of their cellphones back to her mansion.
A walker found Green’s body nearly two weeks later 70 miles (113 kilometres) north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A few days after that, using phone records, police arrested Olivier Adella, a 6-foot-5 (2-meter) French-born mixed martial arts professional who describes himself as Bayat’s bodyguard. He has since opted to co-operate with police.
He said Li and Bayat showed up at his apartment the night of the restaurant meeting with Green’s body in the front passenger seat of Li’s SUV, blood coming from his mouth and ears.
Olivier told detectives Bayat showed him a handgun stuffed in his waistband and handed him gloves.
“I need you to take out the trash,” Olivier says Bayat told him.
Geoff Carr, Li’s attorney, says Olivier is lying about Li’s involvement. Charles Smith and John Halley, lawyers for Bayat and Olivier, did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.
Bayat and Li were arrested at the mansion the day after Adella’s arrest.
“This is all so stupid and sad, and all these lives are ruined,” said Mitri Hanania, an attorney who once represented Green, after Li accused him of stealing a Range Rover. Those charges were dropped.