An Antioch woman was sentenced today to 34 years to life in state prison for her role in the murder of a 91-year-old Dublin woman in a child custody battle.
Mei Li, 58, and her daughter, 36-year-old Rosa Hill, were convicted on June 28 of first-degree murder for the death of Selma Hill at the elderly woman's home in the 7700 block of Peppertree Lane in Dublin on Jan. 7, 2009. Jurors began deliberations mid-June after Hill admitted to the murder on June 6.
They also were convicted of premeditated attempted murder for an attack on Rosa Hill's husband, Eric Hill, at that same location that day.
Prosecutor Casey Bates told jurors during the trial that Rosa Hill and Li went to Selma Hill's home, where Eric Hill and the couple's then-2-year-old daughter also lived, as part of a plot to kidnap the daughter.
Rosa Hill and Eric Hill, who later divorced, were separated at the time and he had been awarded sole legal custody and 85 percent physical custody of the daughter.
Prosecutors said Rosa Hill was killed the morning of Jan. 7, 2009, and that Eric Hill was wounded when Rosa Hill and her mother attacked him after he returned to the home with the couple's daughter later that day.
Bates said notes later recovered by police showed that Rosa Hill and Li called their plan "Operation Custody" and purchased a cache of weapons worthy of a small army, including guns, stun guns, a sword, a hammer tool, a crossbow, a throat cutter, a knife and a baton.
In addition, Bates said that when police investigated a computer that Rosa Hill and her mother used, they discovered that the two women had conducted Internet searches on how to get away with murder and how to strangle someone. They had also researched deadly substances such as arsenic, cyanide, strychnine, mustard gas and ammonia, he said.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Burr said today that the attack was "one of the most-planned crimes I've seen in my 35-year legal career."
Burr said the evidence indicated that Hill and Li planned to murder Selma Hill then kidnap Eric Hill and take him to a remote location, where they would cut up his body with all the tools they had in hopes that it would never be found.
Eric Hill said he had trusted Li up until the time of the attack and he feels betrayed.
"I find her actions extremely painful because she was my friend," he said.
It's expected that Rosa Hill, who faces a similar prison term, will be sentenced later today.