"He did it for Mandy and money." That's how one police investigator explained the tragedy of the Chen family that led to Taiwan-born Edward Chen (陳逸), then 19, shooting his parents and brother to death in their home in the Washington suburb of Great Falls, Virginia in August 1995.
On Monday, a Virginia court sentenced Chen, 27, to 36 years in prison for the triple killings, after he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder.
The combined plea and sentence hearing brought an abrupt end to the murder case eight months after an ex-girlfriend of Chen tipped off police about the killings. That led investigators to interview Chen, who, reports said, immediately confessed to the crime.
The case has left the Chinese-American community scratching its head, unable to fully comprehend why Chen did it and what actually happened.
But, the case is not totally closed, police Detective Steve Shillingford says. While the murder phase of the case is closed, police are still conducting investigations both in Taiwan and the US, he told the Taipei Times. He would give no further details.
Edward Chen murdered his family, police records show, because his parents objected to his serious romance with Mandy Kolbe, a girl he met while attending high school in Herndon, Virginia in 1991.
Chen's father, Chen Wu-hung (陳武宏), ran Super Enterprise Company, Ltd a Taipei company that installed air-conditioning systems in large commercial buildings.
His mother, Chen Shieh Yeh-mei (陳謝月美), worked for the Taipei Engineering Development Co in Taipei.
Edward and his older brother, Raymond (陳磊), were sent to the US when they were young to be educated. Eventually, their parents bought a house in Great Falls for them, one of five properties the Chens would eventually purchase.
The parents spent most of their time in Taipei, and stayed at the Great Falls house on visits.
When the tensions between Edward and Mandy -- and between Edward and the parents -- became too great, Edward one day entered the house and shot dead both his parents and Raymond.
Then, in a bizarre twist, he left the bodies in the home for four years, until 1999, keeping the lawn mowed and the property maintained so neighbors would not get suspicious.
He told anybody who asked that his parents died in a car accident in Taipei. In Taipei, he would tell relatives that the parents died in a crash in the US.
The deceit may have worked well because the two sides of the family were estranged, having split in a rift many years earlier.
An uncle on the mother's side got the family into the US originally, but in the Washington area they often stayed with two sisters on the father's side, one in Virginia and one in Washington.
The parents apparently objected to Mandy because she wasn't Chinese. Raymond said as much in a letter to her just before the killings in which he quipped, "learning karate chops and eating Chinese food is not enough" to satisfy the parents, Shillingford said.
After Edward entered the University of Virginia, and the parents were unsuccessful in breaking up his romance, they took their son to Taipei for psychiatric treatment. Within 10 days of the family's return to Virginia in August 1995, the murders took place. Two years later, Edward and Mandy, now parents of a daughter, were wed.
In 1998, Edward began to identify himself as Raymond and started selling off the family's property, allowing him to live regally. But he also developed a bad temper, ran afoul of the law, and a year later Mandy divorced him. It is unclear when during that period she found out about the parents' deaths.
That winter, a frozen pipe burst in the Great Falls house, and Edward enlisted a friend Michael Reese, to take the bodies, wrap them in duffel bags weighted down with concrete, and throw them into Chesapeake Bay. The bodies were never recovered.
It was Chen's next girlfriend, Vickie Henry, who finally turned him in. She phoned the police in March, after Chen told her of the killings. Henry, Mandy and Reese became three witnesses against Chen. The case was the first in Virginia's history where "murder one" charges were brought in the absence of a corpse.
That's why, everybody agrees, the plea bargaining led to a relatively short sentence -- that and the money saved on a trial.
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