Merced County prosecutors filed murder charges Tuesday against a 50-year-old San Francisco man in connection with a slaying of a woman whose body was found in a Merced trash bin.
William Li was charged with a single count of murder in connection with the death of 30-year-old Lijun Wang, whose body was found Feb. 6 in the trash bin of an alleyway in the 3100 block of G Street.
Li was arrested Friday following a three-month investigation led by Detective Jeff Horn of the Merced Police Department.
Horn, in an interview Friday with the Sun-Star, said Wang came to the United States a year before her death and became entangled with a human trafficking ring operating, at least in part, out of the Bay Area in California. Li, police said, is believed to be connected to the trafficking group, but in what capacity remains unclear.
Li and Wang also became romantically involved for a time, but their relationship may have been ending around the time of her death, investigators have said.
Detectives have said the motive for the slaying remains a mystery.
Prosecutors on Tuesday said they still were waiting for the autopsy report before commenting on how Wang was killed.
“She was brutally murdered, wrapped in garbage bags and thrown in a dumpster like a piece of trash,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll said in a news release.
If convicted, Li faces a possible sentence of 25 years to life in prison, Carroll said.
Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II praised the investigation led by Horn and Merced police, saying they did “an exceptional job of piecing together the evidence in this case.” Morse also said DA investigator Dave Benoy provided “some timely assistance” that helped detectives tie Li to the case.
Morse, speaking with the Sun-Star on Tuesday, declined to elaborate on Benoy’s contributions, saying releasing more details about the evidence collected could hamper the investigation.
Investigators have said they don’t yet know where exactly Wang was killed, but they don’t believe she died in Merced. It’s also unclear why her body was dumped in an alleyway trash bin behind a G Street strip mall in one of the busiest parts of the city.
Li’s known connections to Merced are tenuous, police have said. He has a teenage son who applied to attend UC Merced, according to police.
Li remained in custody Tuesday without bail at the John Latorraca Correctional Facility. He is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday afternoon.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482