By JOYCE PURNICK
NO sidewalk memorials have appeared in front of 208 Classon Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where two Chinese women were slain on March 5. No photographers lie in wait, no crowds have gathered at the site.
In a city that has a way of managing to focus on only one tragedy at a time, it is almost as if the double homicide never happened. But it did. While the public follows every detail of the investigation into the killing of Imette St. Guillen, a graduate student whose body was discovered 16 days ago, the families of the two Chinese women have come together to mourn, quietly and unnoticed.
They do not seek attention. They just want to know who fatally stabbed Xiu Fang Jiang and Lan Juan Chen, found dead in the warehouse where they ran a business that supplied food to Chinese restaurants.
The killings are still unsolved, as rumors swirl in the Chinese-American press that the women, both in their 40’s, knew their killer, and that the crimes were related to the business.
“It’s been five days, they need to give more attention,” Ms. Jiang’s sister, who gave her name only as Miss Kong, said in a whisper on Friday. “It’s heartbreaking.”
She sat with other family members on the second floor of 41 Division Street in Chinatown, in a room jarringly decorated with tinsel and bright red furniture. The room, being renovated for use as a karaoke club, is now a place for mourning and nervous smoking, for weeping and hushed conversations between friends, relatives and business associates.
The husbands of the two victims stared at the floor, answering questions in monosyllables, showing their New York driver’s licenses when asked their names, as if they thought they might be doubted. They were clearly not only grief-stricken but also uncomfortable — a reflection, perhaps, of the isolation of so many recent Chinese immigrants impeded by a language barrier, and often fearful because of their immigration status.
The two slain women, from the same Fujianese town of Langqi, ran their company, Yong Heng Trading, out of the Brooklyn warehouse, where they frequently slept in a makeshift bedroom because they worked constantly.
“Every day, my mother work 18 hours,” said Ms. Chen’s 24-year-old son, Lin Yan Jiang, who found the slain women. Lin Yan, as he prefers to be called, immigrated four years ago, six years after his mother left Langqi, where she was a bank accountant. Ms. Jiang came at about the same time, he thinks. The husbands followed, then the children.
LIN YAN is an only child. Ms. Jiang had a son, 23, and a daughter, 9, who lives weekdays with another family in Chinatown — not unusual for many recent Chinese immigrants. They work long hours to help relatives immigrate, to pay off exorbitant smuggling debts, or to improve their family’s lives.
Lin Yan explained that he knew something was amiss early on the day of the killings because his mother missed an appointment she had made with a matchmaker that morning in Chinatown. “She was coming with me to meet a girl,” he explained, speaking both in halting English and through a translator.
When his mother didn’t show up, and he got no answer when he called her, Lin Yan went to the warehouse. Finding the gate locked, he said, he called 911, was referred to 311, then used a ladder to scale the gate. He discovered the two bodies and called 911 again.
The funerals are tomorrow and on Wednesday. Relatives hope the police will be able to tell them more by then.
Steven Wong, a Fujianese-American community leader, argued that the authorities were giving unbalanced attention to the killing of a young, attractive student at the expense of investigating the deaths of two Chinese women. “I blame the mainstream media. If a crime gets enough coverage, the police have to do something.”
Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said the police are actively investigating the crime. “Just because the news media gives disproportionate attention to one crime over others, does not mean the police do the same,” he said.
Those who went to the future karaoke club on Division Street were studiously nonpolitical. They just wanted to know what had gone so wrong in their adopted city.
Why had he and his family left Langqi for New York in the first place, Lin Yan’s father, Jiang Jing, was asked at one point. He looked surprised. “Freedom,” he said, then sank his head into his hands.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company