Key witness in burning death
dies of overdose
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
March 8, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A key witness in the burning murder
of a homeless San Francisco woman died of a drug overdose Monday
while under witness protection, a representative of the district
attorney's office announced today.
Assistant District Attorney Harry Dorfman said that while the
death of the unnamed woman is a tragedy, the trial would continue
as expected with other witnesses and evidence.
The woman was to testify that Leslie Jill May, a 49-year-old
homeless woman, was dragged into a car by two women in the Tenderloin
district on Jan. 12. May was later doused with gasoline and set
on fire in a parking lot at Monster Park.
Prosecutors say the attack was over her boyfriend's $150 drug
Mia Sagote, 30, and Leslie Siliga, 29, have both pleaded not
guilty in the murder and concomitant charges. Dorfman said that
on the day before she died, Sagote robbed May behind a dumpster,
leaving her naked and penniless.
When May complained to police, according to Dorfman, Sagote and
Siliga went to teach her a lesson.
It took the medical examiner's office over a month to identify
May's charred remains.
The district attorney's office quickly became concerned that
witness safety could be compromised. Some members of Sagote's
family had a history of violence and drug dealing, and could easily
seek out May's friends and intimidate them, according to the prosecutor.
On Feb. 8, nearly two weeks after Mia Sagote was arrested, her
brother Sefo Sagote was taken into custody after police pulled
him over in the Double Rock area of the Bayview district with
a shotgun and crack cocaine in his car.
Sefo Sagote had already been convicted of felony drug-dealing
charges and in 2005 was thrown in jail in Santa Clara County for
shooting at an inhabited enclosure.
But Dorfman said it wasn't Sagote or any other people involved
in their drug-dealing ring that got to this witness, it was the
witness herself who proved to be her on worst threat.
When she agreed to go into a voluntary witness protection program,
the district attorney's office obliged and even offered to help
her kick a longtime addiction to crack and heroin.
She was housed in a different county and received methadone and
kidney dialysis treatments.
The witness refused supervised care in a treatment facility,
according to investigators with the district attorney's office,
who checked in on her daily.
When they found her dead, they had an autopsy performed, which
concluded that she died of a "swelling of the pulmonary system,"
consistent with a drug overdose, according to the district attorney's
An official copy of the report has not been made available to
"The tragic reality is that many of the witnesses with whom
we work are victims themselves of drug addiction," Dorfman
said. "Unfortunately, this woman's longtime addiction caught
up with her before she could achieve justice for her friend."
District attorneys' offices throughout the state run relocation
programs and they are funded by the State of California's Department
Both Siliga and Mia Sagote are scheduled to be in court Friday
at 9 a.m. in department 11.
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