Cops seek assistance in Chinatown murder mystery
Police are asking for the Chinatown community's help to solve the murders of a 70-year-old dancer and her 36-year-old friend who were shot dead and set afire to mask the killings.
Detectives focused their investigation largely on the underground Chinatown credit system known as the "Hui." Yong Hua Chen, the younger victim, may have borrowed money using this system and had the cash in her possession when she died, said an NYPD spokesman Tuesday.
Investigators are looking for street surveillance tapes and interviewing suspects in other crimes, he added.
Investigators now are downplaying reports that Chen was connected to prostitution, although she may have known someone who was, a law enforcement official said.
Chen's body, as well as that of Xiao Ling Li, were pulled from a burning apartment at 83 Henry St. on June 29. Police quickly determined that both women had been shot in the head.
The underground credit system being looked at by detectives has existed for decades; similar systems exist in the Korean and Taiwanese communities.
Essentially, members of the credit group each regularly contribute money into a common pool and it is loaned out with interest, according to Ko-Lin Chin, a criminal justice professor at Rutgers University.
Cops were looking into rumors in Chinatown that someone in the credit system may have feared that Chen, who had two young children, would leave the United States and not pay back the money she borrowed, the law enforcement official added.
Li joined the Lin Sing Association in January and taught women traditional singing and dancing, a member of the group said.