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Man killed co-worker’s family over professional dispute, police say

Texas investigators make arrest more than eight years after the family of four was massacred

The home in the Houston suburbs where all four members of the Sun family were found massacred on Jan. 30, 2014. More than eight years later, investigators have arrested the man they say murdered them. (KHOU) (Courtesy KHOU)
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A sheriff’s deputy doing a welfare check at the Sun family’s home in the Houston suburbs on Jan. 30, 2014, noticed that the rear kitchen door was open. Inside, he discovered the bodies of Maoye Sun; his wife, Mei Xie; and their two sons, 9-year-old Timothy and 7-year-old Titus.

A killer had shot all four in the head and then vanished.

Six months later, the Harris County sheriff held a news conference, offering a $70,000 reward for information that would solve the case. He also issued a warning to the killer who had so far eluded his investigators.

“Turn yourself in because it’s only a matter of time before we will arrest you,” then-Sheriff Adrian Garcia said.

That amount of time turned out to be eight years, seven months and 17 days, according to Ed Gonzalez, the current Harris County sheriff. On Tuesday, Gonzalez announced that his investigators had charged 58-year-old Feng Lu with capital murder over the weekend and he had been arrested as he arrived in California from China. Lu, a former co-worker of Maoye Sun, was charged with capital murder and is being held in a San Francisco Bay-area jail as Texas officials seek to have him extradited. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

In interviews with investigators after his arrest, Lu denied being inside the Suns’ home.

The Suns’ massacre shocked the neighborhood in Cypress, described as “perfectly manicured” and an “idyllic slice of suburban life.” For months after the grim discovery, the family’s Toyota Corolla and Sienna minivan stayed clean, the Houston Chronicle reported. The homeowners association mowed their lawn.

And for months, if not years, the deaths baffled investigators, neighbors and the Houston area’s Chinese community, which helped raise money for the reward that the sheriff offered to the public, according to the Chronicle. In a vacuum, rumors swirled.

“There just isn’t a lot of information out there,” Sgt. Felipe Rivera of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office homicide squad told the Chronicle six months after the killings.

Now, more than 8½ years later, Rivera and company believe they have cracked the case. A professional dispute between Sun and Lu, both employees at a Houston oil and gas company, was at the root of the killings, investigator Timothy Hayes said in a sworn affidavit for Lu’s arrest. During an interview, Lu told an FBI agent that he wanted to transfer to the research and development department at Cameron International and asked Sun to recommend him for a position there, according to the affidavit. When Lu heard that Sun hadn’t done so, he allegedly called him at work in the spring of 2013 to confront him. Sun assured him that he’d pushed for the transfer.

But at work the next day, Lu told the agent, he was “treated differently” by his co-workers, leading him to think that Sun had disparaged him and that “may have been the reason he did not get the promotion,” the affidavit states.

Lu’s wife would later tell investigators that her husband and Sun had a disagreement about work: Lu was trying to get ahead at Cameron, but Sun “did not agree with the promotion,” according to the affidavit.

Investigators said they believe Lu purchased the gun he allegedly used to kill the Sun family just days before their bodies were discovered. During his interview with the FBI agent, Lu said he bought a handgun in January 2014 but returned it a few weeks later when his wife complained about having it in their home, the affidavit states. Because of her displeasure, he said, she had thrown away the barrel before he returned what was left.

An employee at Full Armor Firearms confirmed to the FBI agent that Lu bought a Glock 9mm handgun on Jan. 23, along with 50 rounds of ammunition, the affidavit states. An employee there said Lu returned the Glock on Feb. 4 without a barrel, citing his wife’s disapproval.

His wife would later contradict him, telling law enforcement during an interview that she had never taken the barrel and learned he’d bought a gun only after the FBI came to talk with him, the affidavit states.

Investigators also found physical evidence that connected Lu to the killings and contradicted what he told investigators, according to the affidavit. Analysts said they found Lu’s DNA on Mei Xie’s gray and black Coach purse that police found at the crime scene, even though he allegedly told investigators he’d never been to Maoye Sun’s house, didn’t even know where he lived and had never met his wife or children.

Analysts also determined that the bullet taken from 7-year-old Titus Sun’s body and two bullets recovered from bedrooms at the Suns’ house have “design features that are physically consistent with bullets” Lu purchased in January 2014, Hayes said in the affidavit.

The bullet from Titus Sun’s body was “identified as having been manufactured on the same machine” as the ammunition Lu had purchased at Full Armor, Hayes added.

Both Titus and his older brother, Timothy, were in the local Cub Scout pack, the Chronicle reported. They also swam, played youth soccer and took lessons in karate and piano, part of what one neighbor said was an effort by their mother to expose her sons to both American culture and their Chinese heritage.

The boys’ Cub Scout packmaster and family neighbor Stephen Knight told the Chronicle six months after the massacre that people were still rattled by the “highly intentional” killings and looking for answers.

“Everybody is looking for closure,” he said, his voice catching, “but it’s difficult realizing closure may never come.”