Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that Kestutis Zadvydas was the opposite of what most people would envision as an ideal immigrant to the United States. He was a convicted thief and cocaine dealer, and U.S. officials ordered him deported in 1994 to his native Germany.
But Zadvydas was never sent home.
Neither were, by some counts, thousands of other convicted criminals marked for deportation to their countries of origin in the past decade - including Binh Thai Luc, 35, who is accused in last week's slayings of five people in a San Francisco row house.
The potential deportees were all held in prison for up to six months, then set free under a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring immigrants from being locked up indefinitely while awaiting deportation. The trouble in all these instances was that their home countries would not take them back.
In Luc's case, it was Vietnam in 2006. He'd just finished serving eight years in state prison for robbing a Chinese restaurant and trying to rob a car electronics store in San Jose, but after a federal judge ordered him kicked out of the country, his homeland refused to issue travel documents.
Six years later, he sits in San Francisco County Jail charged with five counts of murder with special circumstances. The victims - a couple in their 60s, their grown children and their son's girlfriend - were bludgeoned and attacked with an unspecified sharp weapon, police said.