71.2 F
Los Angeles
Sunday, July 21, 2024

Families demand justice for 2 seniors murdered by caretaker at nursing home a year ago

Must read

- Advertisement -

Controversy surrounds the perceived inadequate punishment for a Chinese-American caregiver who murdered two seniors at Happy Home Care in Diamond Bar a year ago. The victims’ families are calling for justice and urging public attention to the case.

This tragic incident occurred on June 24 last year when Jianchun Li, 41, a Chinese-descent staff member at the nursing home, suffocated Monica Moon Lee, 75, and Hee Sook Park, 83, by placing plastic bags over their heads and wrapping tape around their necks.

The families of the victims claim that LA County District Attorney George Gascón is trying to release the suspect early for political reasons ahead of the upcoming November election.


Police investigate the deaths of two women at a senior assisted living facility in Diamond Bar. [KeyNews.TV]

Jay Park, 50, the third son of the late Hee Sook Park, said in an interview with the Korea Daily, “I heard from the county prosecutor in charge of the case last week that they are pushing for the perpetrator’s parole in 20 years. It’s frustrating that politics seem to be the reason for trying to release a murderer who brutally killed two people.”

In a press release issued shortly after the incident, District Attorney Gascón stated, “Li was charged in case with two counts of murder and we will work tirelessly to bring them the justice they deserve.”

The family’s claim is based on a special approval they received related to the indictment. According to Park, they obtained special approval last January to charge the suspect with life imprisonment without parole in a criminal trial.

However, with the election approaching, the victims’ families claim that internal pressure within the prosecution makes it likely that the prosecutor will negotiate a sentence that makes the person eligible for parole with the suspect’s defense team this November.

According to the LA County District Attorney’s office, a preliminary hearing for the suspect is scheduled for August 8. Although the Korea Daily requested a response from the DA’s office regarding the delay in the hearing on June 28, no reply had been received as of July 1.

“The prosecutor told us that the suspect became eligible for parole due to good behavior in prison,” Park said. “They also cited a similar case where a murderer of three people received a sentence that makes the person eligible for parole.”

He added, “The current judicial system is disregarding the sacrifices made by Asian seniors.”

[ Two Korean American seniors of Happy Home Care suffocated to death ]
[ 2 Korean seniors found dead ‘with plastic bags over their heads’ ]


The Korea Daily’s front page on June 26, 2023, covering the case


Despite the incident, Happy Home Care has only been fined and continues to operate normally.

Park has filed a civil lawsuit against Happy Home Care. He stated, “My mother was admitted because they claimed to provide Korean-speaking staff and Korean food. She was senselessly murdered. Happy Home Care, which hired someone with no caregiving experience or legal qualifications, is still operating after paying just a few hundred dollars in fines. I urge the Korean community to help ensure this never happens again and that proper punishment is served.”

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Jay Park.

– Can you explain the situation at that time?
“My mother had a doctor’s appointment that morning, so I went to Happy Home Care early with my wife and son. However, a staff member blocked us at the door. Police had cordoned off the area. Despite trying to contact the responsible person by phone, we couldn’t reach anyone. We never imagined something had happened to my mother.”

– How did you find out?
“Police brought out various items, including a wheelchair, which looked familiar. Ambulances arrived and took four seniors, but my mother wasn’t among them. We waited outside for about four hours until a staff member told us to go home and wait. We received a call from a detective after returning home.”

– How did your mother come to move into Happy Home Care?
“An agency introduced us. My mother had been at a nursing home in Fullerton, Orange County, for over two years. The facility housed over 200 seniors, leading to inadequate personal care and some accidents. The agent recommended Happy Home Care because they had fewer residents, provided better care, offered Korean food, and had Korean-speaking staff. The move didn’t cost us anything since my mother was on Medicare. But less than six months after moving, this tragedy happened.”

– Why are you speaking out now, one year after the incident?
“To be honest, I was overwhelmed. Between the funeral, visiting the DA’s office, and meeting with lawyers, a year flew by. Yet, nothing has changed. Now the prosecutor says the suspect might get parole. It’s disheartening to think they would release him for political reasons after we went through the procedure to ensure he gets life without parole. I feel this happened because the victims were quiet, elderly Asians. Meanwhile, Happy Home Care is still operating despite hiring an unqualified staff member, who caused this tragedy, for just a small fine.”

– How do you know about this?
“After the incident, I was lost on what to do. Recently, I reported it to the authorities, who then explained that the case was automatically registered and a fine was imposed. They said there would be no additional actions. It’s outrageous that a facility where two people died can continue operating after just paying a fine. I can’t trust the government’s actions.”

– What would you like to say?
“Two Korean seniors were murdered without reason. The families are devastated by the possibility of a disappointing outcome from the criminal justice system. We want those involved in this crime to receive proper punishment. For the victims and justice, I sincerely hope the Korean community will pay attention to this case.”

BY NICOLE CHANG, YOUNGNAM KIM [chang.nicole@koreadaily.com]