Lee, 43, was a prominent tech executive in Silicon Valley whose death was mourned by other industry heavyweights. His killing was also been seized on by conservative figures and tech leaders, including Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who framed Lee’s death as the result of past progressive prosecutors and policies like bail reform, which they claim are responsible for rising crime, violence and homelessness. In reality, Momeni and Lee knew each other, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said Thursday. Scott did not give more details on their relationship.
Cash App founder Bob Lee knew his killer, police say
Here’s what we know so far about the suspect:
Momeni, an entrepreneur and tech consultant who lived just outside of San Francisco in nearby Emeryville, Calif., spent the last 15 years living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to property and public records.
At the time of Lee’s killing, Momemi listed himself in his LinkedIn profile as the owner of Expand IT, a tech support and consulting business based in his Emeryville live-work space, since 2010. Expand IT’s website had since been taken offline and calls to the company seeking comment on Momeni’s role went unanswered Saturday. His previously listed employment on LinkedIn includes a string of IT support and consultancy roles around Northern California.
Little else appears in Momeni’s public record apart from several misdemeanor charges from more than a decade ago. In 2011, he was charged in Alameda County, Calif., with allegedly selling a switchblade knife and driving with a suspended license, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. He pleaded no contest to the driving offense and the knife charge was dismissed. He also faced a DWI charge in 2004, according to the Chronicle.
Neighbors and past associates described Momeni as helpful and warm, according to the Chronicle.
“I was completely taken aback when I read his name in the news this morning,” Akash Sawhney, who met Momeni in 2015 while working for the tech start-up Outward, told the Chronicle. “It didn’t seem in character with what he’s accused of doing — at least in my interactions with him.”
Momeni listed several schools in his education history, but did not specify an area of study.
What charges is Momeni facing?
Momeni was arrested at his Emeryville live-work space early Thursday and faces a murder charge, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Momeni also faces a sentencing enhancement of using a deadly weapon, a kitchen knife, to commit the crime.
If convicted, Momeni could face between 26 years to life in prison. While the death penalty is still technically legal in California for crimes such as murder, death sentences are uncommon, especially after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019.
Where was Momeni the night Lee was killed?
Prosecutors have portrayed Lee’s killing as premeditated, relying on security camera footage, text messages and the nature of the weapon used to make their case against Momeni. The two men met up in the early morning hours of April 4 after Lee had allegedly been drinking earlier that evening with Momeni’s younger sister, Khazar Elyassnia, according to court records.
Cash App founder stabbed after allegedly drinking with suspect’s sister
Investigators have not detailed how Momeni and Lee were acquainted, but indicated Lee and Elyassnia were friendly. An unnamed witness cited in court documents who was with Lee and Elyassnia the night of the killing described her as “married but the relationship had possibly been in jeopardy.” The witness indicated that Lee and Elyassnia were connected but that it was unclear whether their relationship was romantic. Lee had recently relocated to Florida but returned to San Francisco often to visit his two children.
In a nine-page motion filed Friday, prosecutors allege Momeni drove Lee to a “dark and secluded area in the opposite direction of [Lee’s] hotel.” Security footage appears to show the men exiting the vehicle before Momeni appears to stab Lee, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors also indicated Momeni was upset that night. A witness said Momeni had questioned whether his sister was “doing drugs or anything inappropriate.” Lee assured Momeni nothing inappropriate happened, according to court documents.
Elyassnia later texted Lee that night to check on him and thanked him for handling the situation “with class,” according to court records.
“Just wanted to make sure your [sic] doing ok,” she wrote. “Cause I know nima came wayyyyyy down hard on you.”
Prosecutors underscored Momeni’s alleged use of a kitchen knife to kill Lee as further evidence of a “planned and deliberate attack.” Unlike a pocket knife or weapon someone might regularly carry, taking a knife from home would require advanced planning, according to prosecutors.
What’s next for Momeni?
Momeni will remain in jail until his new arraignment on April 25.
Scott Canny, the brother of Momeni’s lawyer, appeared in his sister’s place on Friday and told reporters that Momeni “has friends and family here in support” of him. Momeni’s sister, Elyassnia, was among his relatives who came to court Friday.
Attempts to reach Momeni’s relatives on Saturday were not successful.
“The facts of what occurred, or didn’t occur, will come out over time,” Canny told reporters.
Caroline O’Donovan contributed to this report.