SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Cash App founder Bob Lee’s accused killer will make his third court appearance Tuesday for an arraignment, and Nima Momeni’s defense attorney says her client is not a murderer.
The case has taken several strange twists since Lee was brutally stabbed to death in San Francisco nearly one month ago.
Lee was an admired, wealthy, and successful figure in the Bay Area tech industry. He was a father of two, chief product officer of cryptocurrency company MobileCoin, and the former CTO of Square. The 43-year-old victim’s close friends said he didn’t have any enemies, and the homicide must have been a random act of violence.
The opposite turned out to be true when detectives pieced together a motive. Prosecutors said Lee was stabbed in the heart by someone he knew: a 38-year-old tech entrepreneur who lives in Emeryville. Momeni’s younger sister, Khazar Elyassnia, was established as the link between the two men, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said.
‘Love You Selfish Pricks’
San Francisco Police Department officers found Lee bleeding and unconscious on Main Street in the upscale Rincon Hill neighborhood at 2:30 a.m. April 4. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said SFPD began its investigation with no suspects.
To find the killer, detectives retraced Lee’s whereabouts and who he was with between April 3 and April 4.
Elyassnia is Momeni’s younger sister, was close friends with Lee, and spent time with both men in the hours leading up to the homicide. Police unlocked Lee’s cellphone and found a text message from Elyassnia.
Khazar Elyassnia, left, stands in the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on April 14, 2023, ahead of an appearance by her brother, Nima Momeni, who has been charged with murder in the death of tech entrepreneur Bob Lee. (AP Photo/Olga Rodriguez)
The text message said, “Just wanted to make sure your doing ok. Cause I know nima came wayyyyyy down hard on you. And thank you for being such a classy man handling it with class. Love you Selfish pricks,” according to court documents.
Police discovered that “nima” was the first name of Elyassnia’s brother, Nima Momeni.
Another break in the case happened when police found a witness who spent hours hanging out with Lee and Elyassnia leading up to the homicide. “Witness 1 was unsure if (Lee) and (Elyassnia) had an intimate relationship. (Elyassnia) was married but the relationship had possibly been in jeopardy,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
Inside Lee’s hotel room at 1 Hotel San Francisco, the witness saw Momeni confront Lee. “(Momeni) was questioning (Lee) regarding whether his sister was doing drugs or anything inappropriate,” court documents state.
Nima Momeni appears in court on April 25, 2023. (Pool image)
The last time the witness saw Lee alive was when the Cash App founder left his apartment on April 4 at 12:30 a.m. to walk to Elyassnia’s apartment. The witness later called Elyassnia to ask if Lee ever arrived at her apartment at Millennium Tower on Mission Street. “(Elyassnia) told Witness 1 that (Lee) came to her apartment ‘for a second,’ but she fell asleep and didn’t know when he left,” prosecutors wrote.
Surveillance cameras at Millennium Tower showed Lee was inside the tower for one hour and 24 minutes, court documents state. Cameras recorded Lee entering the tower at 12:39 a.m. He didn’t leave the tower until 2:03 a.m. and he rode in an elevator with Momeni down to the lobby. The two men got into Momeni’s white BMW and drove southbound on Main Street.
“Video shows the BMW drive to a dark and secluded area … and park just out the bottom of the frame,” prosecutors wrote.
Defense Attorney Maintains Momeni’s Innocence
Defense attorney Paula Canny told News Nation, “There is a huge backstory to this. More will be revealed later. Who would like to see their sister, who they are super protective of, potentially be drugged? Nobody. Any good brother would be upset about it.”
Canny said the surveillance videos are too grainy to identify who was recorded on camera, nor see what happened. “Of course they say he did it, that’s what prosecutors and police officers do. The video that I’ve seen, you can’t tell who is in the video. The video that I’ve seen doesn’t depict what they are saying. I don’t think he is guilty of the crime of murder,” Canny said.
“There isn’t enough evidence. There’s no malice, there’s no premeditation, there’s no intent,” Canny said.
Nima Momeni talks to his defense attorney in court on April 25, 2023. (Pool photo)
Stabbed In The Heart
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said Momeni was armed with a kitchen knife. Once he had Lee in a dark and isolated area under the Bay Bridge, Momeni stabbed Lee twice in the chest, including once in the heart, Jenkins said. Lee’s final moments were recorded by surveillance cameras at Portside apartments in the upscale Rincon Hill neighborhood at 2:35 a.m. The video shows a gravely-wounded Lee trying to find help before collapsing on a sidewalk. Police found Lee lying in the street “uncontrollably bleeding” and “unresponsive.”
Elyassnia and her husband showed up for Momeni’s first court appearance last month. They were swarmed by media cameras in the courthouse’s hallway until the couple was able to enter a courtroom. Cameras were banned from the courtroom on that day, but a courtroom sketch artist was sitting the gallery. Momeni formed his hands into the shape of a heart, and his family members did the same, apparently as a symbol of support.
Elyassnia did not attend her brother’s second court appearance, but Lee’s children and 20 of his supporters did. The judge permitted media cameras to record video of the murder suspect in the courtroom.