Opening arguments in the case against Isaac Campbell, who has been in jail since 2007 for allegedly killing his girlfriend, Liya "Jessie" Lu, and sealing her body in a trashcan in a plastic bag filled with cat litter, began on Oct. 7. The trial had been continued and postponed for four years.


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Opening arguments in the case against Isaac Campbell, who has been in jail since 2007 for allegedly killing his girlfriend, Liya “Jessie” Lu, and sealing her body in a trashcan in a plastic bag filled with cat litter, began on Oct. 7.

The trial had been continued and postponed for four years.

Called to the stand on Oct. 9 was Dr. Pedro Ortiz, a Deputy Medical Examiner of the Los Angeles County Coroner Office who performed the autopsy on Lu.

“I could find nothing remarkable about the cadaver,” Ortiz said of the 5-hour autopsy, “except that the body was in an advanced state of mummification.”

According to Ortiz, the body was mummified because the cat litter absorbed the heat that would have otherwise decomposed her body. Her body was also in such a state that it required special examination.

The examinations on Lu’s body, however, could not identify her cause of death. X-rays, for example, were performed on her body to see if there were any internal marks or injuries like knife dips or metallic objects, but none were found.

Her body also lacked blood or vitreous humor, which is found on the gelatin of the eye, urine or stomach contents for toxicology tests. Instead, her liver, gall bladder and spleen were submitted and came back with minimal levels of alcohol in her system.

Overall, Ortiz said that the autopsy proved inconclusive.

“The mechanisms of Lu’s death, I don’t know,” he said. “I found no trauma internally or externally on Miss Lu’s neck, but I can extend that to her whole body as well. I could not find trauma anywhere else.”

Ortiz, however, ruled Lu’s death as a homicide because of the circumstances: a young Asian woman, with no history of diseases, a negative toxicology report, found in a trash can, covered in cat litter.

Ruth Evans, co-worker and supervisor to Lu at Kaiser Permanente at the time of her disappearance, was also called to testify.

As her supervisor for a year, Evans said that Lu was working a minimum of six days a week and that the last time she worked with her was on Aug. 10, 2007.

“She never had tardy problems,” Evans said of Lu. “She was conscientious. Always completed her assignments on time.”

Consecutive no-call, no-shows lead Evans to contact both the union and the police.

“We figured it was out of her character,” Evans said.

With no contact from Lu, Evans finally sent a telegram on Aug. 14 for her termination on grounds of job abandonment.

According to Evans, she did not know of Isaac Campbell.

Also called to the stand was Jeremy Zhou, a cousin who has known her since she was in China. Zhou and Li married in 1998 and resided in San Gabriel until their divorce in 2003.

Following their divorce, Zhou said that they maintained an on-the-surface relationship as cousins and that the last time he saw her was on Aug. 11, 2007, when she called him to see her new apartment she had rented and to purchase some items from K-Mart.

Unlike Evans, however, Zhou said he knew of Campbell and said that he had been around their office before.

According to detective James Just, the end of the trial doesn’t seem near.

“It might take a long time,” Just said. “Maybe well into Thanksgiving. We have a lot of witnesses.”

Lu went missing in August 2007 and her body was found at a home in Arcadia in a recycling bin filled with cat litter in September. She was last seen at Campbell’s apartment, according to witnesses.

Lu graduated from PCC in 2006 with an associate degree in Art and had reapplied for the nursing program, where Campbell was already a student.

According to Isaac Campbell’s father, Maceo Campbell, his son and Lu had dated for several years.


Her body was discovered by an acquaintance of Campbell’s, Michael Darby. Campbell had asked Darby if he could store some things in the garage of his house, including the blue recycling bin Lu was found in.

In April 2009, Darby testified in a preliminary hearing that he opened the recycling bin and found clothes.


”There was cat litter under the clothes, it was just poured in there,” Darby said at that time. “There was a bag in there. I opened the bag a little bit and I smelled death. If you’ve ever smelled death before you know it does not smell good.”

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