Sufficient evidence found to try suspect in SF State student murder
A San Mateo Superior Court judge ruled there is sufficient evidence to set a trial date for the suspect accused of beating an SF State student to death in a domestic violence case.
Detective Brandon Scholes took the witness stand during the preliminary hearing this morning. He was the on-call detective on Dec. 17, the night of Ariana Hatami’s death.
Scholes recalled receiving a call arriving at around 12:30 a.m. and arriving at Hatami’s apartment shortly after. Frederick Tran, Hatami’s boyfriend, was covered in blood as Scholes interviewed him at the scene.
“When I asked him how he felt, he told me he felt calm and was no longer anxious,” Scholes said.
Tran woke up in the middle of the night in Hatami’s bed and got up to go to the bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror for two minutes while he formulated his plan to kill her, according to Scholes.
Tran went back to the bed, picked up a pomegranate juice bottle on the nightstand and hit her in the head eight times while her eyes were closed, according to Scholes.
Tran did not attempt to help Hatami or call an ambulance at any point. Two other residents of the apartment restrained Tran and called the police when they heard the commotion.
“He was calm. He was coherent. He answered my questions,” Scholes said. “He didn’t have any trouble communicating.”
Scholes recalled blood covering Hatami’s bed and the surrounding walls. He confirmed photographs taken of the crime scene, of Tran covered in blood and Hatami’s autopsy.
With blood still splattered on his white shirt and face, Tran told Scholes he had a dark history with Hatami.
“He said he was angry with her because she caused him to go to jail,” Scholes said.
Daly City court records show Tran was placed on probation and ordered not to communicate with Hatami in October 2016 after he was convicted of a misdemeanor for assault and battery against her.
Daly City police took Tran into custody again two days before Hatami’s alleged murder for a probation violation. Tran posted a $25,000 bail and was released from jail the next day.
“I’m relieved that they are moving forward with the trial,” said an anonymous friend, former classmate and coworker of Hatami’s. “Justice needs to be brought to what happened, especially since the justice system already failed Ariana. You know, Freddy was released on bail within 24 hours of killing her.”
He then took the bus to Hatami’s work, according to Scholes, and waited for her to end her shift. Employees at a nearby bagel shop confirmed they saw Tran in the area that evening.
Tran asked Hatami if he could stay at her apartment just for one night, according to prosecutors. They went back to her apartment, where an argument began.
“He mentioned they argued that evening about who did what and who took care of who in the relationship,” Scholes said.
Alex Bernstein, Tran’s attorney, made a case during the cross-examination for the incoherency of his client.
Bernstein repeatedly probed Scholes for his opinion on the mental stability of Tran. He asked questions such as how clearly someone with schizophrenia, or someone who believes they are possessed by evil spirits, may be able to rationalize.
“Do you think it’s normal or not normal to ask an officer what he had for lunch?” asked Bernstein, referring to a report from an officer at the scene.
“In my experience, people say all sorts of things,” Scholes replied.
Scholes confirmed that Tran asked several times how much longer the interview would take, and also that his responses during the interview varied in emotions from calm to angry.
“Ariana confided in me a lot and it was clear that they had a toxic relationship. He was very controlling and manipulative, displaying all the signs of an abusive boyfriend,” said the anonymous friend of Hatami. “I could tell from socially engaging with (Tran) that he had some severe mental issues going on.”
The People of the State of California v. Frederick Tran is scheduled to begin on May 18 at 8:45 a.m. at the San Mateo Superior Court.