San Francisco Woman Charged in Father's Dismemberment Freed After Plea Deal

A woman, who was charged with murder after her father's dismembered remains were found in his San Francisco home, has been spared jail.

Stephanie Ching, 35, and her husband, Douglas Lomas, 45, fled to China last year after her father Benedict Ching's severed head and body parts were found in the refrigerator at his Ingleside home in May last year.

The couple were immediately flown back to the U.S. to face murder and conspiracy charges.

Ching struck a plea deal with San Francisco prosecutors and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of desecrating human remains, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The 36-year-old also pleaded guilty to being an accessory, the publication reported.

She received a suspended sentence of three years in prison and a one-year jail sentence on Tuesday. She has been in jail for 17 months and was credited with time served so she will go free, the family told the newspaper.

Lomas also struck a deal and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. He was reportedly sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday.

Stephanie Ching (L) and Douglas Lomas.

The Medical Examiner's Office could not determine a cause of death, the District Attorney's Office told the San Francisco Examiner.

Prosecutors also said a motive for the alleged murder was unclear based on the evidence and there were issues around establishing which of the defendants did what.

How did the case unfold?

When Benedict Ching did not turn up to work for several days, a co-worker contacted his sister and together they went to his home on May 19, where the defendants also lived with their two young children.

Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai wrote a court motion seen by the San Francisco Examiner that Lomas opened the door and told them the family was ill before refusing to let them in.

A missing persons report was filed and the next day, an officer was called to check on Benedict, police said. He was let in by Benedict's sister who had a key to his home,

When the officer went into the bathroom, he found cardboard and plastic lining the walls and the tub, which contained a bloody circular saw, and "unknown biological matter in the open toilet bowl," Talai wrote.

Police returned with a search warrant and found, "human body parts, including a severed head, inside the refrigerator," he said.

Investigators also found plastic sheeting, rolls of duct tape, latex gloves and other tools inside the home, prosecutors said.

The SFPD Homicide Detail began an investigation that led to the identification of two possible suspects, his daughter and son-in-law.

The same morning, Ching and Lomas had boarded a flight to China with their two children, he added.

After landing in Beijing, they were immediately detained by Homeland Security Investigations agents and flown back to Washington, D.C.

The pair were detained at Loudoun Adult Detention Center in Leesburg, Virginia on May 23 and were later moved to San Francisco.

The San Francisco District Attorney charged both with murder and conspiracy and they were held without bail.

Ching's court appointed attorney, Jose Pericles Umali, spoke briefly after the plea hearing earlier this month, according to the publication.

Umali said: "She's obviously not guilty and nothing has been shown yet to show that she's guilty.

"She's under arrest and charged with a very serious crime. It's also a very sad crime in that her father was the victim. What her participation is has not been presented in any court of law."

Newsweek has contacted the San Francisco Police Department, sheriff's office, and the city's district attorney's office as well as Loudon County Sheriff's office.

Update 10/21/20, 8 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include more information about the court case.

Update 10/21/20, 8.52 a.m. ET: This article was updated with photographs of Stephanie Ching and Douglas Lomas.