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Restaurateur's Killing Called Real 'Whodunit'

March 22, 1985|JAN KLUNDER and PATRICIA KLEIN | Times Staff Writers

Slain restaurateur George Fang, part-owner of a small chain of Chinese restaurants in the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County, was eulogized Thursday as an ambitious and hard-working man who never turned down a friend in need of help.

Buddhist services, attended by about 150 of Fang's friends and relatives, were held at the Wah Wing Sang Funeral Home on Sunset Boulevard in Chinatown, with burial at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.

But, even as the 41-year-old Taiwanese immigrant was buried, new questions arose over his murder.

"It's a classic whodunit," said Los Angeles police Detective Wayne Newton, who attended the funeral as part of the investigation. "We haven't ruled out anything. It's a baffler."

Family Won't Rest

Fang's brother, Grover, said the family would not rest until the killer is apprehended.

"We have to find out," he said.

Fang was shot several times in the head Feb. 19 in the office of his Mandarin Wok restaurant in Northridge and died two days later. His funeral was delayed until his 13-year-old daughter, who lives in Taiwan, could obtain a visa.

Detectives Newton and Lou Bobbitt said the murder may have been a professional execution, a crime of passion or an aborted robbery attempt.

However, because Fang's car had a flat tire, they speculate that the killing was planned. Detectives said the murderer may have intentionally deflated the tire, then waited until Fang returned to the restaurant alone to telephone for assistance.

Marriage Claim

Shortly after his death, a woman contacted police, claiming to have married Fang on Dec. 8--to the great surprise of Fang's friends and relatives.

The woman, Amy Fang, 31, who told police her maiden name was Chui-Hui Chuang, has filed a petition asking to be named administrator of his estate. Investigators said they have been unable to turn up a will or anyone who knew of the marriage.

Until she stepped forward, police said, they thought Fang had been living with a girlfriend, Chris Wu, 19, at his Tarzana home. Both women had immigrated from Taiwan.

"It was a private ceremony," Amy Fang's attorney, Roderick C. Lipscomb, said of the wedding he claimed took place at a Canoga Park chapel. "George had explained to her that he would tell his family about the marriage at an appropriate time."

Family to Challenge

The Fang family has refused to recognize the marriage and did not invite Amy to the funeral, Lipscomb said. She attended anyway and sat among his acquaintances rather than in a section reserved for relatives. Wu also attended the funeral.

The family is expected to challenge Amy Fang's probate petition, which is scheduled for a hearing April 1 in Van Nuys Superior Court.

Lipscomb said Amy Fang fears for her safety.

"She has been deeply saddened by the fact that George was killed, frightened by the way he was killed and disturbed by the fact that the family didn't know of the marriage and won't recognize it," Lipscomb said.

Significance of Timing

Detectives are examining whether the timing of the murder--on Chinese New Year's Eve--will provide any clues to the motive or the killer's identity. Bobbitt said the Chinese believe that, if a person is killed just before the New Year, it connotes "tremendous hate and insult to the family."

Amy Fang told investigators that, in the weeks before his murder, Fang was "apprehensive," but never revealed what was troubling him.

Bobbitt said it does not appear that Fang had any ties with organized crime or any significant gambling debts.

"We didn't find anything sinister in his background," he said.

Eulogized as 'Humble'

According to Dr. T. Lim, a physician and personal friend of Fang who delivered the eulogy, Fang was "humble, very modest and soft-spoken. Anyone could approach him and find him warm and friendly. He never said 'no' to anyone who asked his help."

Lim added that Fang was "very private. I didn't know he had married. It surprised even his family."

Lim recalled that Fang, who had seven brothers and sisters, came to the United States in 1973 and enrolled in a community college to improve his English and to study business.

After working for several years as a busboy and waiter, Fang, with financial help from friends and relatives, opened the original Mandarin Wok Restaurant in Northridge. After just eight months, Lim said, the business expanded from 100 seats to 180. Fang later opened three others, in Thousand Oaks, Woodland Hills and Ventura.

"He realized the opportunity available to those willing to work hard to learn and improve themselves," Lim said.

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