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Son mourns mom slain by neighbor in San Francisco apartment

A person stands on a pier
Mei Ran Hu was stabbed to death in a third-floor hallway inside the 462 Duboce Apartments in San Francisco's Duboce Triangle on Friday. | Courtesy Zhi He Kuang

Seventeen years ago, Zhi He Kuang immigrated to the U.S. from Guangdong, China, with his parents. Now, he’s the only one left alive in the family.

His father died years ago. His mother, Mei Ran Hu, was stabbed to death in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle on Friday.

“I couldn’t believe this,” Kuang told The Standard in Cantonese. “The government should really look into fixing this, or more people will die.”

Mei Ran Hu was stabbed to death in the hallway outside her apartment on May 5, 2023. | Courtesy Zhi He Kuang

Hu, 64, was the victim of an alleged knife attack by her neighbor, Jesus Esparza, inside public housing. San Francisco police arrested Esparza, and he was charged with murder and use of a deadly weapon by the District Attorney’s Office. Multiple media reports, as well as Kuang, said Esparza appeared to be experiencing mental health issues.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins issued a statement describing the killing as tragic and offered her condolences to the victim's friends and family. She also emphasized her "unwavering commitment to pursuing justice and ensuring that the suspect is held accountable for this senseless crime.”

According to Kuang, his mother was leaving the elevator on the third floor of the building and heading to her apartment. A man was standing in the hallway, seemingly saying random things. Hu kept walking, but the man stabbed her in her back, Kuang said.

Hu tried to use her hands to defend herself and then to cover her wounds to stop the bleeding. Kuang said she had mobility issues, so she likely couldn’t do much to protect herself. Even still, Hu escaped to the stairs but couldn’t walk down for help because of the stab wounds, and later she died, Kuang said. 

Mei Ran Hu was attacked in the hallway at 462 Duboce Apartments. | Courtesy Zhi He Kuang
Mei Ran Hu tried to escape using this stairwell, only to succumb to her wounds. | Courtesy Zhi He Kuang

After his mother’s death, Kuang wrote down his thoughts in Chinese and sent them to The Standard, hoping more people would read him.

“Where is justice?” (公义何在) Kuang wrote. “If mental illness can be the excuse to not face accountability, that would be an act like tyranny and lawlessness.” (精神疾病等原因推脱责任,这犹如横行霸道,无法无天)

Kuang remembers his mother as a very hard-working person who sacrificed a lot for the family. Hu worked as a janitor after immigrating to the U.S.

Another family member has started a crowdfunding campaign to help with the funeral costs. Kuang thanked members of the public for their support, but said that no matter how much money is raised, nothing would bring his mom back or relieve the pain of his loss.

The San Francisco Public Defender's Office said that it would provide a thorough defense.

"I have been provided with very little information from the prosecution, and was only able to meet with Mr. Esparza briefly today before court," Deputy Public Defender Ilona S. Yañez said. “I spoke with Mr. Esparza’s mother who has been her son's caregiver for many years. Mr. Esparza has never been to jail before."

Kuang attended the preliminary hearing on Thursday, with the arraignment now scheduled for May 19.

When asked to share some photos of him and his mother together, Kuang said there aren’t many, because the family seldom had the chance to travel or have fun.

“We were planning to do more travel in the future and take more photos together,” Kuang said. “But now, I don’t have the opportunity anymore.”