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Trial Scheduled in Restaurant Slaying

July 30, 1987|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

A 63-year-old Burbank man was ordered this week to stand trial on charges that he fatally shot an Alhambra woman and wounded her husband in a Glendale restaurant over a soured business deal.

Wen Lee is charged with murder in the April 30 slaying of Tuai Li-chun, 28, and the attempted murder of her husband, Johnny Soong, 35, at Lee's Chinese restaurant on South Brand Boulevard. Lee pleaded not guilty to both charges in May.

At a preliminary hearing Tuesday before Glendale Municipal Judge Barbara Lee Burke, Soong said he was buying the Chinese restaurant from Lee. But Soong said he was unable to make a $5,000 escrow payment he had promised Lee by April 30.

Under questioning from Lee's attorney, Bennett T. Mori, Soong said he had pulled a knife on Lee during an argument at the restaurant a week before the slaying. However, the chef at the restaurant dived between the men, ending the altercation. It was after that incident, Soong said, that he promised to pay Lee by April 30.

The morning of the killing, Lee walked into the restaurant and exchanged greetings with the couple, who were already running the restaurant, Soong testified. Two employees were also present.

"Then he shot me in the back," Soong said. "I turned around, and he still was shooting so I jumped him and pushed his hands up over his head. Then he tried to shoot me in the head. I told him, 'Don't do it! Don't do it!' And he just said, 'I want to kill you, I want to kill you.' "

Soong suffered bullet wounds in his back and foot. Two other bullets grazed his chin and chest. Li-chun was struck in the face by one of the bullets apparently intended for Soong.

Police said Lee, who did not testify at Tuesday's proceedings, told them that he shot Soong. They say Lee told detectives the night of the attack that he had brought his .38-caliber pistol and a box of bullets from home that day.

Lee entered the restaurant twice that morning--the first time without the gun, Glendale Police Detective Joe L. Jimenez testified. But, when Soong again put off payment, an angered Lee retrieved the gun from the trunk of his car, loaded it and went back into the restaurant with the intention of killing Soong, the detective said.

"He said he could no longer go on living. He said he was going to kill Mr. Soong, then kill himself. . . . He said that several times," said Jiminez, one of two officers who interviewed Lee after the shooting.

Lee is being held in Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. He will be tried in Pasadena Superior Court on Aug. 12.

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