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Teen Denies Masterminding Death, Says He Feared For Own Life

April 28, 1994

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A teen-ager testified that he joined in the 1992 beating death of a high school honors student because he thought the victim would blow up his home

″I had to participate in killing him because that was the only way to stop him, prevent him from blowing me up,″ Robert Chan told a jury Wednesday.

Chan, 19, accused of masterminding the slaying, faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. His lawyers say he is a paranoid schizophrenic who killed Stuart Tay because he believed his own life was in danger.

Prosecutors say Chan plotted Tay’s death because he thought the 17-year-old was going to double-cross him in a scheme to steal computer parts from a store.

Chan and four friends killed Tay on New Year’s Eve 1992, prosecutors say. They allegedly lured him into a garage on the pretext of selling him a pistol, then bludgeoned him with baseball bats and a sledgehammer.

Twenty minutes later, he was still alive, so someone poured rubbing alcohol down his throat, then taped his mouth and nose, prosecutors say.

Others dragged him into the back yard and buried him. Two of the youths ditched Tay’s new car. Then they went to a New Year’s party.

Three others are charged with first-degree murder: Abraham Acosta, 17, Mun Bong Kang, 19, and Kirn Young Kim, 18. They have yet to be tried.

The fifth suspect, Charles Choe, 18, testified for the prosecution, saying Chan plotted the murder, poured the alcohol and taped Tay’s mouth.

Choe pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court and will be held by the California Youth Authority until age 25.

Contesting Choe’s story, Chan testified that killing Tay was Kang’s idea, Acosta planned it, and Acosta and Kang landed the first blows. He said he only hit Tay twice, then taped Tay’s mouth shut at Acosta’s order.

When his lawyer asked why he didn’t try to protect Tay, Chan said, ″If I stopped it, he would go home and immediately press the button and blow up my house. I didn’t want to get killed.″

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