A three-judge appellate court denied dual appeals filed by two New York City men convicted of the brutal 2010 double homicide of sibling Freehold restaurant owners, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said last week.
Zeng Liang Chen, 28, and Dong Biao Lin, 31, both formerly of New York City, were each sentenced in 2015 to life prison terms by now-retired Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci, Jr. The sentences for both men were also subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring them to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed, or 63 years and 9 months, before becoming eligible for release on parole.
Lin’s sentence was imposed following his acceptance of a plea agreement, whereby he pleaded guilty to two counts of purposeful murder and two counts of felony murder.
Chen’s sentence was imposed following a jury trial, at the conclusion of which he was convicted of one count of purposeful murder, one count of felony murder, armed burglary, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary, and possession of a weapon (knife) for an unlawful purpose.
After the respective defendants were sentenced, they filed an appeal to the Superior Court, Appellate Division. The result was last Thursday’s decisions, affirming their convictions and sentences.
Chen argued on appeal that his confession to the police should have been suppressed, because he did not understand his Miranda rights.
Lin, likewise, argued his confession should have been suppressed, claiming the translation of his Miranda rights from English to Mandarin Chinese, Lin’s native language, was imperfect.
Both defendants also challenged their sentences as excessive. Chen also alleged trial errors: that the judge did not adequately explain the law to the jury and that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt of purposeful murder.
Appellate Division Judges Ellen L. Koblitz, Thomas V. Manahan, and Karen L. Suter rejected all of the defendants’ claims as to their convictions and sentences and affirmed their judgments of conviction.
The case background …
The case involved the slaying of two restaurant owners on South Street in Freehold Borough on June 16, 2010.
At approximately 5 p.m., Freehold Borough police responded to a call from a motorist reporting an injured man on South Street in the borough.
Officers found Yao Chen, 28, of Freehold Borough, in the street in front of his residence. Chen was conscious and attempting to move although his hands were bound. The victim was bleeding profusely from multiple knife injuries, including severe injuries to his neck and abdomen. Chen was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center where he died. An autopsy revealed Chen had suffered 74 separate stab wounds.
While tending to Chen in the street, police received a report of two young Asian males on Main Street in Freehold Borough who appeared to have recently been involved in an altercation. A description of these men was broadcast over a police radio and, a short time later, the Freehold Township police located them and they were taken into custody. The two men were later identified as Chen and Lin.
A search of the victim’s South Street residence revealed the lifeless body of a second victim, Yun Juan Chen. An autopsy performed on Chen, 39, concluded that she had died as a result of 80 separate stab wounds. The two slain victims were brother and sister. Defendant Zeng Liang Chen is not related to either of the victims.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Freehold Borough Police Department immediately launched a joint investigation into the double homicide with the assistance of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and Freehold Township, Tinton Falls and Piscataway police departments.
The investigation revealed Lin previously worked in a Freehold-area restaurant owned by the Chen family. Believing a significant quantity of cash was in the residence, the two men broke into the home while the Chen brother and sister were inside. Other members of the Chen family, who resided in the home, were working at a nearby family-owned restaurant at the time of the break-in. Lin and Chen attacked the victims inside the home before fleeing the scene. Yao Chen made his way outside and to the street where he was observed by a passerby who contacted police.
Lin testified at Chen’s trial that Chen participated in the planning of the crime, tying the male victim to a bed and holding him captive while Lin searched the home for money and other valuables. Lin, who admitted he inflicted the fatal knife wounds on the Chen brother and sister, testified that defendant Zeng Liang Chen also brandished the knife during the attack. Chen himself admitted to the police that he beat the male victim with brass knuckles after tying him to the bed.
Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutors Matthew Bogner and Jennifer Lipp prosecuted the defendants at the trial level. Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Mary Juliano argued both defendants’ appeals in the Appellate Division.
— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office