GUILDERLAND – One year after the brutal quadruple homicide of a family in a quiet Albany suburb, police are no closer to finding the culprit or culprits of the crime. Police are again asking for information from the public, and offering protection for those who come forward.
When Jin Chen, 39, his wife Hai Yan Li, 38, and their sons, Anthony 10; and Eddy, 7, were killed in their small home at 1846 Western Ave. last October, the news shocked the Capital District. Rumors that seemed the stuff of fiction, such as possible connections to illegal Chinese gang and mafia organizations “cannot be dismissed as mere speculation,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
New York State Police and Guilderland Police have investigated more than 600 leads with the help of the FBI and New York Police Department; none of which have progressed the investigation, announced officials at a press conference held Tuesday, Oct. 6 at the Guilderland Police Department.
“For a crime of this magnitude, that’s kind of a low number,” said State Police Captain Scott Coburn.
Investigations have led police outside the Capital District. In New York City’s Chinatown, pamphlets in both English and Chinese dialects were distributed asking for public assistance. Leads have been followed locally, in the New York City area and abroad to China. A number of subpoenas are still out, and some leads are still withstanding.
Chen allegedly served as banker and manger of a network of undocumented, indentured servitude Chinese immigrants, brought to the states in exchange for work. Police investigators said they also found gambling tables – 16, in all – in the basement of the home. Family members of the victims told police they were only used for small-stakes games with friends.
Chen worked part time at King’s Wok, a Chinese takeout restaurant on Western Avenue. The restaurant was owned by his wife’s family and located less than a mile from the family home. Hai Yan Li was a homemaker, while the sons attended Guilderland Elementary School.
Family members dismissed reports in Chinese-language newspapers that Chen was murdered after a high-stakes gambling party and that the killer left and returned to murder the family and steal a large amount of cash. The family had offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, which has not proved effective thus far.
Fear of deportation and involvement in illegal crime groups are both acknowledged as possible obstacles in gaining information from the public. Officials are offering protection to such individuals with case-related information. Jail time could also be reduced for inmates with information.
Gaining phone records from Apple telecommunications has, “set investigations back considerably,” said Soares. Soares would not comment on how dealings with the Chinese government have gone so far, but the “bureaucratic red tape” involved with an investigation of this magnitude, involving so many agencies, has “created issues.”
“You have to remember that this is not an open government,” said Soares. “The Chinese culture is inherently distrustful of law enforcement.” According to Soares it is an “absolute possibility” that the criminal or criminals involved have fled the country to China.
Police confirmed reports from those close to the family that a knife and object similar to a hammer were used in the killings. These objects have not been recovered. Without any leads in the investigation, DNA evidence has not been useful, nor has surveillance camera footage from Wolf Road, nor the limited information police received from neighbors. As the suburban home is set on a busy street, with neighbors set a distance away, lack of information from neighbors is not unusual.
Investigators also cannot dismiss possible connections to a similar homicide last February, when an immigrant Chinese family of four were killed at gunpoint in their Houston, TX home. With no known witnesses or suspects in that case either, rumors of a targeted killing continues to fly in Houston’s Chinese community.
“I can’t imagine looking across at two children and deciding to take their lives,” said Soares. For him, the investigation has been “one of the most frustrating,” but he is sure, “someone has the answers and someone hasn’t come forward yet.”
Newly made signs featuring photos of the family are being distributed throughout Guilderland, again asking for public aid in gaining information.
Any information regarding the killings should be directed to Guilderland Police at 356-1501.