29: 2015 Chen Family Homicides, Guilderland New York
Howdy! I used to live in Albany NY so I was in the area for the Chen family homicides in October of 2015.
A family (father, mother, two children aged 10ish & 7) were found butchered in a quiet neighborhood. That's Jin Chen/Chen Jinfeng (husband), Hai Yi Li (wife), Anthony, and Eddy. The news first said they'd been shot but it later came out they'd been butchered by a hammer or a knife. Most info that the public have learned since came from relatives of the deceased in interviews rather than from the various police forces who have been working the case (Guilderland Police, NY State Police, & FBI).
Jin Chen never showed up to work at King's Wok restaurant on October 8th 2015. A coworker walked the 1km to his place where he found the bodies. Not fluent in English, this coworker then had another co-worker (a relative of the deceased) call the police who showed up immediately.
Jin Chen's body was found on the first floor. His wife and kids were upstairs, under a blanket. Details have been scarce but the scene was "horrific." From their autopsies, it was concluded they died between 3:30-6:30am that day. Jin Chen and Hai Yi Li had Apple watches but Apple refused to share location data of the deceased for way longer than the essential 48 hrs after the bodies were discovered, nor information regarding who they’d called, much to the polices' dismay. 18 mattresses were found on the floor of the basement.
There are theories that these murders were the result of ticking off the wrong folks in either a gambling, human trafficking, or money laundering ring. Jin Chen is confirmed to have hosted at least the occasional small scale gambling night. However, those events might have been larger than we've been led to believe, by relatives who won't speak ill of the dead. Jin Chen ran a restaurant but it had closed down two years prior, yet he was not struggling financially to pay for his nice family home in Guilderland, a reasonably affluent area. There were reports, from The Times Union and The New Yorker, that Jin Chen handled large sums of money and was involved in the transport of undocumented workers to Chinese restaurants in NYC, the Capital region, and beyond. Hai Yi Li was in the USA illegally, so it’s reasonable to assume she was not responsible for their majority income.
The language barrier really slowed the investigation. Those 18 mattresses and the lack of obvious money problems lend credence to the theory that Jin Chen was part of a human trafficking ring. The police only received 600ish tips from the public which is low for such a severe crime. The victims’ family offered a $5,000 reward for any tips that might bring the murderer/s to justice, and police (or at least Albany County District Attorney David Soares) promised that, within the legal limits of their authority, not to have anyone deported who offered information on the crime. Speaking as a then-local, I don’t think that last bit was broadcasted enough. I remember my coworkers and I complaining that more people would come forward if the police promised immunity with regards to their documentation status, and we all actively followed this story.
My understanding is that the Asian-American community was scared to talk, either because they feared retribution from whatever forces killed the family, or because they feared being deported—Either way, the police had little to go on.
There were similar murders leading up to this in the American South. "In the first such incident, three members of the same family—a married couple and the wife's sister—were found stabbed in their D'lberville Mississippi, home in 2011." They too ran a Chinese restaurant. Local authorities thought they'd been killed by assassins from NYC. In 2014 a Chinese family of 4 was killed, shot, in their home right outside of Houston Texas.
There has been no progress. Here is a quick video detailing the case, if you want to learn more about this. Maybe this isn't as spooky or grotesque as some other, better known cases, but it saddens me that there has been no justice here. If you, or anyone you know, has information on this case, please call 1-800-GIVE-TIP hot line (1-800-448-3847) or 518-783-3211 for NY State Police or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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