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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The San Francisco Body Parts Case

     At four in the afternoon on Wednesday January 28, 2015, a citizen in the South Market section of downtown San Francisco flagged down a police officer to investigate the source of a bad smell coming from a collection of rat-infested garbage and debris not far from the entrance to a Goodwill store.

     In an abandoned suitcase on 11th Street between Mission and Market Streets, a neighborhood populated by a lot of homeless people, the police officer found in the suitcase what appeared to be human body parts. The gruesome discovery triggered a search of a three-block radius of the suitcase that led to the location of more body parts.

     The San Francisco medical examiner determined that the remains were human. The head, hands and lower arms of the corpse remained unaccounted for. The forensic pathologist, in the initial postmortem report, did not reveal the age or gender of the victim or disclose information regarding the cause of death.

     In the meantime, detectives questioned potential witnesses and suspects, looked at surveillance camera footage, and searched area garbage bins for the missing body parts.

      On Friday evening, January 30, 2015, detectives detained and questioned a suspect in the Tenderloin district. They considered him a person of interest because he was seen near the suitcase and body parts the day before. He was questioned and released.

     According to an update from the medical examiner's office, the body parts belonged to a "light-skinned man." The medical examiner said that a forensic scientist will be conducting DNA tests on the remains in an effort to identify the victim.

     On Saturday January 31, 2015, San Francisco police officer Albie Esparza told a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle that organized criminals--gang activity--might be responsible for the body parts found in and around the downtown suitcase. That morning, officers arrested 59-year-old Mark Andrus and booked him into the county jail on suspicion of murder.

     Helen Andrus, Mark Andrus' sister-in-law, told a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle that he had a history of crime and had drifted from the family. "We haven't heard from him in years. My husband at one point tried to reach and find him. It's been 20 years since we've seen him." In the 1980s and 1990s police in Missoula, Montana arrested Mark Andrus for drug possession, theft, burglary, and bail jumping.

     Mark Keever, a friend of the suspect's, told reporters that the police had arrested the wrong man. Keever insisted that Andrus looked like a transient and just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

     Homicide investigators, following the Andrus arrest, conceded that the victim could have been cut into pieces somewhere else and dumped near the Goodwill Store. An attorney with the San Francisco Public Defender's Office was representing Mr. Andrus.

     On Tuesday February 3, 2015, the San Francisco District Attorney announced there would be no charges filed against Mark Andrus. The prosecutor said there wasn't enough evidence to hold the suspect.

     The San Francisco medical examiner, on February 11, 2015, revealed that the remains found in the suitcase belonged to 58-year-old Omar Shawan of Vallejo, California. Investigators did not say if Shawan and Mark Andrus had known each other or had any kind of interaction. Public Defender Jeff Adachi, in speaking to reporters about Mr. Andrus, described him as a "kind and engaging" person. 

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