Immigrant California farm worker charged with 7 murders in Half Moon Bay shooting

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REDWOOD CITY, California - An immigrant farm worker accused of shooting seven people to death near San Francisco, some of them his co-workers, made his first court appearance on Wednesday after he was charged with murder in California’s second deadly gun rampage in recent days.

Chunli Zhao, 66, the lone suspect in Monday’s massacre at two mushroom farms in the seaside town of Half Moon Bay, was formally presented with seven counts of premeditated murder and a single count of attempted murder lodged in a criminal complaint filed by local prosecutors.

Zhao, handcuffed and garbed in a red jumpsuit, was ordered held without bond during a brief hearing before a judge in San Mateo County Superior Court in nearby Redwood City, California. He was assigned two private defense lawyers, but no plea was entered.

The next court proceeding in the case was set for Feb 16.

A Mandarin-language translator was provided for the defendant, who according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is a Chinese citizen who has resided in the United States for at least 10 years.

After the hearing, Mr Wagstaffe told reporters outside the courthouse that prosecutors have not yet determined Zhao’s precise immigration status, or whether he entered the country legally.

The prosecutor said authorities do have an idea about the suspect’s motives but declined to share that with reporters.

The district attorney also said Zhao was “cooperative with sheriff’s detectives” who initially interviewed him through a Mandarin interpreter following his arrest and gave “a complete statement.”

Still, the expectation is that he will enter a not-guilty plea as the proceeding progress, “and we want to make sure this man gets a fair trial,” Mr Wagstaffe said.

In addition to the eight felony counts it contains, the 10-page criminal complaint alleges “special circumstances” accusing Zhao of “personally and intentionally” shooting to kill...

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