Despite an investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies that reached as far as Canada and China, the brutal killings of a family of four in upstate New York remain unsolved.
Jin Feng Chen, 39; his wife, Hai Yan Li, 38; and their children, Anthony, 10, and Eddy, 7, were found bludgeoned to death October 8, 2014 inside their bungalow in Guilderland, a suburb of Albany, New York.
Their bodies were discovered by a coworker of Chen’s, who went to the home after Chen reportedly failed to show up for work at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Police believe the murders took place sometime between 3:30 and 6:30 a.m.
Chen was found downstairs, while his wife and two children were found upstairs, covered with blankets, the Albany Times Union reported.
The victims had head and facial fractures caused by a knife and hammer, the newspaper said, citing a report in the Chinese-language newspaper World Journal.
The brutal, unsolved quadruple homicide has affected the community deeply—and is still on people’s minds, Pastor Charlie Muller told A&E True Crime.
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Muller is the pastor of Victory Church, located in Albany, which has offered a $5,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. The church runs a children’s home in Guilderland, about five miles from the Chens’ home.
“It was a shock for everyone. It was pretty devastating,” Muller says of the crime. “People still talk about it.”
As for whether he believes the Chens will ever get justice, “Gosh,” he says, after pausing a beat. “I hope so.”
The multi-jurisdictional investigation included Guilderland police, New York State Police, New York City police, the U.S. Department of State and the FBI.
Investigators looked into links to gangs and human trafficking, according to media reports. Sources involved in the investigation say Chen allegedly handled large amounts of off-the-books cash that came from an underground economy of undocumented Chinese restaurant workers running from New York City to upstate New York and beyond, the Times Union reported.
Chen allegedly held a gambling party the night before he was murdered, and the killer wanted to steal cash from the home, according to a report by Sing Tao, a Chinese language newspaper cited by the Times Union. Chen’s brother dismissed that report, saying Chen only hosted small card games for friends.
Police reported no past issues at the Chen homes, or complaints from neighbors.
Investigators also looked into any possible links to multiple homicide cases involving members of Chinese families in Mississippi and Texas, but found no direct connections, The Altamont Enterprise reported.
Chen and his wife were from the province of Fujian, on the southeastern coast of China, and came to the United States in the early 2000s. Their children attended Guilderland Elementary School.
After the boys’ deaths, the local school district created a memorial scholarship in their name to benefit a graduating senior going into a field of study related to the environment. The boys—described as kind, gentle and joyful—loved gardening, and Garden Club was the last activity they participated in at school, The Altamont Enterprise reported.
The boys’ father was in the United States legally, but their mother was not, according to unnamed sources quoted by Newsday. Chen had owned a restaurant, but the business was all but closed for about two years, leading to questions about how he made a living, sources also told the newspaper.
Despite more than 600 leads in the case, investigators couldn’t zero in on any suspects. Language and cultural barriers also slowed down the investigation. For example, Guilderland police had to find an interpreter who spoke the appropriate Chinese dialect to communicate with some of the people who knew the Chen family, local media reported.
A year after the killings, P. David Soares, Albany County’s district attorney, offered immunity from immigration charges to anyone who came forward with information.
“This was a very intentional act with very intended targets,” Soares said in a October 6, 2015 press conference. “But the reasons why you would take the life of children? You have to actually be sitting across from the person who did that to ask that question.”
Guilderland Police Chief Dan McNally told A&E True Crime his department appreciates any media exposure regarding the case, in hopes that it might prompt someone to come forward with information.
“It remains disturbing to us to have this case open,” McNally says. “When our officers drive by the [Chen] home, I don’t think there is any officer that doesn’t think about what happened there that day.”
Anyone with any information about the case is asked to contact New York State Police, Troop G, Major Crimes at (518) 783-3212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.