Update, Jan. 12, 12:45 p.m.: The trial for Philong Huynh--who is accused of raping and killing Huntington Beach resident Dane Williams in January 2008--was originally scheduled to begin Jan. 11, but has been pushed back to May 23.
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Philong Huynh, 40, of City Heights, instead will face trial on Jan. 11, 2011, with the possible maximum sentence of life in prison, without the chance of parole.
As of October, The Orange County Register reports, prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty. However, on Friday, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced that her office--after a committee considered the "mitigating and aggravating circumstances" of the case, according to Paul Levikow, a spokesman from the DA's office--opted to reduce the possible maximum sentence. The DA's office refused to discuss details of why the decision was made.
In a separate development, a warrant was issued and served to search the phone of a California state prison inmate, James Swann, who told a DA investigator that he had photos on his phone of Huynh and Williams at a "gay sex party" in Hillcrest from a day after Williams went missing. Swann is in prison for unrelated charges.
Williams disappeared during the early morning of Jan. 26, 2008, while in San Diego for the Action Sports Retailer trade show, working for Hurley International as an intern. He had spent the evening with friends at the Hard Rock Hotel, but did not show up for a ride back to Orange County the following day. That's when he was reported missing.
Nearly three days later, around 6 a.m. on Jan. 29, Williams' body was discovered in an alley 7 miles from where he was last seen, bloody and wrapped in a blanket.
Despite a police investigation, the case went without any leads for more than a year. Family, friends and members of the surf community hosted a rally in Downtown San Diego on the one-year anniversary of Williams' death, calling for justice.
In September 2009, Huynh was arrested after DNA evidence found on a separate victim, a Navy man who survived the incident, linked Huynh to the DNA found on Williams' clothing. Huynh pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Reports say that Huynh drugged his victims with Benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer similar to Valium. In both incidents, the victims were missing their underwear.
Huynh is gay and a diagnosed schizophrenic. Prior to the incident, Huynh had a criminal record, including being an Arizona-based parole violator, stemming from a 1998 charge for kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment.