LOS ANGELES — A business associate of a popular practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine was arrested Friday in connection with what California authorities say was the horrific slaying of the herbalist, his wife and the couple’s 5-year-old daughter.
Pierre Haobsh, 27, of Oceanside was taken into custody at gunpoint at a gas station in San Diego County, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bob Brown said. Investigators with an arrest warrant had been following a red Lexus that belonged to him, Brown said. A loaded handgun and property belonging to one of the victims was found inside the car, the sheriff said.
Deputies who went to check on the welfare of 57-year-old Dr. Weidong “Henry” Han on Wednesday found the bodies of the physician, his 29-year-old wife, Huijie “Jenni” Yu, and the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Emily Han, in the family’s multimillion dollar home on the outskirts of Santa Barbara.
Their bodies were found shot, wrapped in plastic and duct-taped in the garage, a sheriff’s statement said. They had last been seen the night before they were found.
Brown said investigators were still trying to determine why the family was killed, but they believe Haobsh was recently involved in a business deal with Han and financial gain could have been involved.
“This investigation is far from over,” Brown said. “It is complex and ongoing.”
Two business associates of Han went to his home after he failed to show up for a meeting — something they told authorities was highly uncharacteristic of him.
The associates called authorities when they found the front door ajar and the family’s cars parked outside.
Authorities didn’t say what led them from the palatial two-story home that sits on 7 acres surrounded by avocado trees to the Oceanside area, where Haobsh was arrested, more than 170 miles to the south.
Haobsh is a U.S. citizen, authorities said, but few other details about him were released. No relatives, friends or an attorney who could comment were found in an initial search by The Associated Press.
The killings shocked Santa Barbara where Han, who owned and operated the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic, was a popular figure.
The couple’s daughter was a kindergartener at Foothill Elementary School in the Goleta Unified School District, where counselors were made available to her classmates and their parents. “It is impossible to express the tremendous pain that this situation presents to us,” Superintendent William Banning said in a statement.
Han had owned and operated the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic since 1991, according to the clinic’s website. Public records show he is a licensed acupuncturist.
A biography on his website says he earned degrees in Oriental and Western medicine from a Beijing university in 1982, graduating at the top of his class. He moved to the U.S. a few years later to study psychology.
Han came from a family of Chinese doctors and provided traditional treatments including acupuncture, acupressure and herbal formulas from an on-site Chinese pharmacy.
He is co-author of the book “Ancient Herbs, Modern Medicine” and was working on a volume about how to integrate Chinese and Western medicine. At the clinic, he created individualized herbal formulas for each patient that were filled at an on-site pharmacy.
“Not only is he going to be missed by me personally and professionally, but this community is going to miss him incredibly. He was the man,” said Dr. Glenn Miller, a psychiatrist who co-authored “Ancient Herbs, Modern Medicine” with Han and considered him one of his closest friends.
“Patients we share would talk about how in the true sense of the word he was a healer, in that he would listen to the wholeness of his patients,” said Miller, who choked up several times as he spoke to the AP. He said Han wanted his patients healed both physically and emotionally.
A somber recording on the clinic’s voicemail said the facility was closed Friday, but people would be there to greet those who wanted to express their condolences.
“Our doors will be open for you to honor, pay respects and celebrate the lives of Dr. Henry Han, his wife, Jenni, and daughter Emily. They truly were special,” the recording said.