Death penalty panel to review case against four in karaoke bar killing

Xiao Ye Bai’s case sounds like an Asian gangster movie: Come to the U.S. and kill.

Authorities in Las Vegas and Los Angeles say that’s exactly what Bai did over the past 12 months.

Bai, who sources say may have ties to California-based Asian gangs, allegedly tried to extort $10,000 from a local man, Wen Jun “James” Li.

And when Li didn’t pay, authorities allege, Bai fatally stabbed him in what police called a “brazen and bold” attack in July at a karaoke bar on Jones Boulevard near Desert Inn Road.

Bai, an immigrant from China, also faces murder charges in San Gabriel in Southern California where he is alleged to be the gunman who in December 2008 blasted away at two Asian men as they left a restaurant, killing one and wounding the other.

The Clark County district attorney’s death penalty committee next week will review Bai’s case and determine if the state will seek capital punishment against him and his three co-defendants in Li’s death.

After the California shooting, authorities say, Bai came to Las Vegas, hunkered down with his girlfriend Pei “Nikki” Pei and ran the extortion plot on Li.

It’s unclear why Bai reportedly targeted Li, but sources with knowledge of the investigation said Li was allegedly running scams to rip off casinos at table games.

Two months before the fatal attack, with his girlfriend Pei driving a car, Bai sat in the back seat with Li, demanding $10,000 and punching and slapping him until he was bleeding and bruised, according to court records.

A witness to the beating told police Bai said he would kill Li if he didn’t pay up, according to Bai’s arrest report.

Pei later told investigators that Li owed Bai money, but police aren’t certain why.

What is known is that Pei had met Li earlier in the year at a local hangout popular with Asians, Club 108, and Li had offended her or made her feel uncomfortable, according to court records.

Come July, Li had not paid up and Bai and Pei were hunting for him. Their housemates Jacky Wang and Li “Sophia” Lu were also keeping an eye out for him, according to court records.

In the early morning hours of July 6, Lu spotted Li at a karaoke bar, Forbes KTV, in the 3400 block of South Jones.

Lu called her boyfriend, Wang, and told him to tell Bai that Li was there, according to court records.

Around 3:30 a.m. Bai and Pei showed up at the bar in a black Honda Accord.

According to witnesses and video surveillance, Pei entered the bar alone and left after about 30 seconds. Lu was seen leaving shortly afterward.

With Pei and Lu out of the bar, Bai, dressed in black, went inside Forbes KTV and found Li.

Confronted by Bai, Li yelled “Help,” grabbed an acquaintance, Jian Guo, and pushed him toward Bai, before fleeing down a hallway, court records say.

Before Guo knew what happened, his arm was cut and Bai was chasing after Li, according to court records.

It’s unclear whether Li tripped or was wounded and fell, but Bai was soon on top of him slicing, cutting and stabbing him, witnesses told police.

One detective said Li was cut and stabbed about 30 times. Li suffered defensive wounds on his forearms and hands as well as fatal wounds on his head, neck and back.

A woman, Lin Yao, who believed Bai was just punching Li, tried to break up the fight and was stabbed four times in two swift motions by Bai, investigators said. Yao’s wounds were not life threatening.

The knife work allegedly displayed by Bai is typical and often preferred by Asian gang members, said Lt. Lew Roberts, head of the Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide unit and a former member of the gang unit..

After the attack, Bai fled the bar, got into the Accord driven by Pei and sped off, video from outside the bar shows.

Pei later told police she thought Bai was just going into the bar to demand the $10,000, according to court records.

Lu told police that her leaving the bar just before the attack was a coincidence, court records state.

Police were able to track down Bai and Pei with the help of confidential informants in California, according to court records. Several witnesses were able to identify Bai in lineups as the man who attacked Li at Forbes. Detectives were also able to place the cell phones used by the defendants in the area of the karaoke bar.

The defendants were indicted by a Clark County grand jury last month after testimony by seven witnesses.

Bai and Pei are charged with multiple felonies, including murder with use of a deadly weapon, extortion, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder, and burglary. Bai also faces two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon in the attacks on Guo and Yao.

Lu and Wang are charged with murder with use of a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder and burglary.

A fugitive warrant was also served on Bai for murder charges stemming from the San Gabriel shooting.

Bai’s attorney, Robert Draskovich, said the victim in the karaoke bar case has another side. “He was a very dangerous man,” Draskovich said of Li.

When asked whether his client has any connection to Asian gangs, Draskovich denied it. “There’s no evidence of that whatsoever,” he said.

Pei’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld said, he’s looking forward to exonerating his client at trial.

The death penalty committee is expected to decide Wednesday whether to seek capital punishment in the case.

Bai, Pei, and Wang are in custody at the Clark County Detention Center. Lu is out of jail on $100,000 bond.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at or 702-380-1039.

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