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Man Sought in Slaying of 2 Buddhists in Azusa

April 26, 1987|EDMUND NEWTON | Times Staff Writer

AZUSA — Sheriff's homicide detectives are searching for a 32-year-old disaffected member of a Buddhist congregation in connection with their investigation of the murders two weeks ago of the group's religious leader and his assistant.

Seng-Chwan Tan, 40, the religious leader of the Progressive Buddhist Assn., and Choon Hock Lim, 63, were both found shot to death April 14 in the stucco house at 1830 Azusa Canyon-San Gabriel Canyon Road that the religious group had been using both as a retreat and as a temple.

Sgt. Andy Finnigan of the sheriff's detective division said that investigators have no suspects, but that they want to question Ellis Chen, who had experienced "friction" with the religious leader on the subject of Chen's divorce from his wife. "The monk (Seng-Chwan Tan) had been cautioning him on his life style and his marriage," said Finnigan. "There was a little discord."

Chen, whose address is unknown, was last seen driving past the Buddhist retreat on the Sunday before the murders, during lunar New Year observances by the congregants. "He was in a 1985 Toyota van," said Finnigan. "He drove down the street twice, but he didn't enter the house."

Investigators have discounted both robbery and politics as motives for the murders. Money had been left untouched and in plain view at the scene, said Deputy Melinda Hearne. The crime did not suggest a connection to recent terrorist violence against Buddhists in Sri Lanka, she added, because the religious group was largely Burmese of Chinese extraction.

Detectives are also seeking two Caucasian men seen talking to Seng-Chwan Tan in the retreat's backyard shortly before the murder. "A neighbor saw the monk talking to two white men around 11 a.m.," Finnigan said. "He got the general impression that they were contractors."

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