Suspect in dismemberment murder makes first court appearance

Lisa Gonzales in 2014 accused her landlord of mistreatment and neglect in this video recorded at Barbagelata Real Estate by Peter Menchini.

The woman charged with the murder and dismemberment of her roommate made her first — albeit brief — appearance in court Friday morning. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Lisa Gonzales’ hands remained handcuffed behind her as she stood with her back to a room of reporters who had been ordered not to take her photo.

Alex Lillian, her public defender, asked Judge Raymond Arata to postpone Gonzales’ arraignment until June 14, as he waits to receive discovery materials from the District Attorney’s office. In a soft voice, Gonzales told the court she agreed to waive her right to be arraigned within the first 48 hours of arrest.

Gonzales, 47, was arrested June 2 after police discovered the decomposing remains of 61-year-old Margaret Mamer, Gonzales’ roommate, stuffed into a plastic bin and stored under the apartment at 255 14th Street. Mamer’s date of death has not yet been declared, but details in court documents suggest it may have been May 15.

Outside the courtroom, Lilien told reporters that Gonzales is a hardworking single mother whose family had lived in the same rent-controlled apartment since 1969. Lilien said that Gonzales had met Mamer while working at Whole Foods and offered her a room to rent.

According to court documents, Mamer began renting the room in August 2017 for $400 a month. But only a few months later, Gonzales asked Mamer to vacate — and when Mamer didn’t, Gonzales threatened to evict her in mid-April.

“When Ms. Gonzales took in Ms. Mamer, she didn’t know her very well,” Lilien said. “She didn’t know she had a history of not paying rent. I’m not saying that’s a justification for anything. That’s just what I know so far.”

Police on June 2 discovered decomposing remains of a dismembered body at this 14th Street home. Photograph by Abraham Rodriguez.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman with the District Attorney’s office, told reporters that he doesn’t respond to “victim blaming.”

“As you know, the facts of this case are very disturbing. The fact is that, at this point, given that the case hasn’t been arraigned yet, we can’t get into details,” Bastian said.

Lilien said that he still did not know much about the case and was getting some of his information from the media.

According to court documents, after Gonzales was arrested, she told police that she and Mamer got into a verbal argument May 15, when Mamer refused to move out. Gonzales then purportedly told police she didn’t have a “real recollection” of what happened next, but she thinks she “flipped.”

An unnamed witness who lives with Gonzales at 255 14th Street told police that when she came home from work for lunch on May 15, Gonzales told her not to go into the bathroom. Later that evening, the witness smelled metallic and vinegar scents in the apartment. The next day at lunch, the witness heard the sound of sawing from inside the bathroom. More than two weeks later, the witness told someone else what (s)he had observed, and was concerned that Gonzales had killed someone. That person reported this information to police at Ingleside Station.

On June 1, a friend of Mamer’s independently filed a missing persons report.

Police arrived at 255 14th St. on June 2, and Gonzales allowed the officers to search the residence. When they began searching her storage locker, they discovered a large plastic storage container emitting a foul odor. Inside the container, a plastic bag was covered in maggots and a thick liquid oozed out. Inside the bag, they recovered Mamer’s severed arms and legs, and intact head and torso.

Gonzales has reportedly been under psychiatric observation at the San Francisco jail. Lilien told reporters he didn’t have any specific details about a “long psychiatric history. “

“Anytime there’s a case like this, when there are really serious charges with something this salacious and grisly, my experience is, the jail is worried about people who are accused and they observe them,” Lilien said. “I know they are keeping an eye on her, and that is not uncommon.”

The San Francisco Examiner reports on a 2014 video of Gonzales confronting the real estate office of her landlord for allegedly seeking to convert her apartment to a condominium. With tears streaming down her face while reading a statement, Gonzales said, “Your repeated refusal to address health and safety issues in my unit forced me to use my time and money towards maintenance for your investment, which is my home.”

Recent calls for service to police can be found on CrimeMapping.

Crime is trauma and the county offers different services, which can be found hereVictims of violent crime can also contact the Trauma Recovery Center at UCSF.

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