The 30-year-old caretaker of a Bethesda mansion was shot and killed in front of his wife early yesterday by one of three gunmen who broke into the house seeking money. Three men were later seized as suspects.
Warrants charging the men with murder were issued in Montgomery County late last night. The men were picked up at a motel in the District after D.C. police spotted a car believed linked to the shooting of Din Chia Wang, in Bethesda's exclusive Longwood subdivision.
Shortly after the murder of Wang, who worked at the home of a Washington land developer, a second burglary occurred in the subdivision. In that incident, two gunmen entered a house, bound and gagged an elderly couple and fled in the couple's Cadillac, police said.
Authorities said a lookout issued for the car led police to the three men held. Two are from Baltimore and one is from Northeast Washington.
The motive in both the shooting incident and the later break-in was believed to be burglary, according to Cpl. Phillip Caswell, a Montgomery county police spokesman.
"There was no pattern. We haven't had any problems in that area. With all the valuables in that first house, it appears that all they were looking for was money. I think they initially drove into an area, cased a house which looked easy to get into, and took a chance."
Officers said the gunmen punched out a ground floor front window pane at a home at 7105 Armat Dr. belonging to developer Samuel Gerstenfeld and then climbed a spiral staircase to the third floor where they confronted Wang and his wife in the servants' quarters.
Also in the house were the Wangs' infant child, Wang's mother-in-law and three Gerstenfeld children. None of the children was harmed but the mother-in-law was reportedly bound and gagged by the gunmen.
The assailants ransacked the Wangs' bedroom demanding money. Police said that when Wang refused one of the men shot him in the head.
Police said Wang was Taiwanese, and may have had difficulty in communicating with the gunmen.
The three then fled the Georgian-styled residence through a basement door. Although there were many valuables in the house, police said none was taken.
Police dogs and a state police helicopter were immediately summoned to search for the men in the Longwood neighborhood, an area of large, custom-designed homes separated by thick woods and located between the Capital Beltway and Burning Tree Country Club.
FBI director William H. Webster, who lives near the Gerstenfeld house, said he heard the fatal shot about 5:20 a.m. while he was telephoning his office about the flight to Texas of the deposed shah of Iran.
"I had the bureau call the police," Webster said. He said his wife later made a statement to police after seeing what was believed to be the get-away car.
Police said they learned about 8 a.m. that a second home, in the 7100 block of Oak Forest Lane, had been entered within 30 minutes of the Wang murder.
Police said a car found near the Gerstenfeld house may have been used by the gunmen but apparently was abandoned after the shooting.The car, a late-1960s model Ford, had been stolen recently in Baltimore, police said.
At the second home, the two men threatened the couple with their handguns, bound and gagged the couple, and searched the house for money. The gunmen also cut the telephone line to the house.
After holding the couple for several hours, police said, the gunmen fled in the couple's green Cadillac Seville. Officers said the men took no money from the couple, whom police declined to identify.
The man and his wife were able to untie themselves shortly after the gunmen left. "We're okay," the husband said later. "There will be a delayed reaction. It was pretty rough."
Neighbors said they often saw Wang outside the Gerstenfelds' house and he was always friendly.
"When we moved into the neighborhood and our children didn't know anyone," said one neighbor, "he made them part of the family. He was one of the sweetest people."