The Chinese immigrant charged with killing a Brooklyn mother and her four children may have lashed out at the family after being victimized in a marriage scam, according to Chinese community leaders and reports in the Chinese-language news media.
The suspect, Mingdong Chen, was arrested after police said he cut the necks of Li Qiao Zhen, 37, and her children: Linda, 9, Amy, 7, Kevin, 5, and William, 1.
All were killed at the family's home on 57th Avenue in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn just before 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Chen is being held without bail on murder charges.
Law enforcement officials initially said Chen, who they described as an immigrant without legal documents from China's Fujian province, slashed his victims because he resented the relative prosperity of the family.
Chen, who was a cousin of the dead woman's husband, had been living with the family for about a week, a law enforcement source said.
But Tuesday, a prominent leader of a Manhattan Chinatown family association who didn't want to be named said he had been told by other immigrants from Fujian that Chen had paid a large sum of money to a woman with the promise she would marry him so he could get legal immigration status.
But after the woman took the money, she reneged on the marriage promise and disappeared, the leader said.
Li Qiao Zhen may have been attacked by Chen because she introduced him to the woman who refused to marry him, the official said.
The official said that in recent months he had been asked by Fujianese immigrants to investigate a number of cases of women taking money under similar circumstances.
Usually, the money amounting to as much as $90,000 is paid, a pre-wedding banquet is held to introduce the prospective bride and groom to the public and the woman then refuses to go through with the marriage or return the cash, said the official.
Reports that Chen may have been scammed also appeared Tuesday in a number of Chinese-language newspapers, said Kenneth Cheng, head of the Fukien Benevolent Association of America.
Cheng said the going rate he heard about marriage contracts was about $50,000.
"Some marry for love, others for money," Cheng said of the practice.
Defense attorney Danielle Eaddy of Brooklyn, who represents Chen, said Tuesday she had not heard of the marriage allegations and declined to comment.
An NYPD spokesman didn't return telephone calls seeking comment about the possible motive in the case.