Friends and business acquaintances once referred to him as the “happy prince.” The reality of James Huang’s fall from grace, as it emerged last week after the 40-year-old Taiwanese real estate developer slaughtered four members of his family and then killed himself in Surrey, B.C., on Jan. 5, was far different. Unconfirmed reports circulated widely that members of Taiwan’s organized crime world were after him—the result of a failed Taipei department store development that left him with massive debts. He faced a major lawsuit launched by investors and, under indictment in Taiwan for fraud and breach-offaith, a Jan. 11 court hearing. Struggling to
come to terms with her brother’s horrible act, one of Huang’s sisters declared in Taipei last week that “someone forced him to die.” And, she added: “There’s no other way he would have done this.”
As he leaped from obscurity in British Columbia to become the latest entry on a list of murder-suicides in the province, it quickly became clear that notoriety of another sort had shadowed the Taiwan native’s departure, six months earlier, from his homeland. There, he had been anything but obscure: a successful real estate developer who started his own business at the age of 24, the selfmade millionaire once oversaw a financial empire that included a number of office towers in Taipei. But his luck turned sour with his European Market Standard Department Store, an outlet for expensive European fashions. The store opened last May and closed in November, the victim of an economic downturn—leaving Huang owing as much as
$250 million to 3,000 investors, a renovation company and a private bank.
By then, Huang, who gained Canadian landed immigrant status in 1991, had already fled Taiwan for Surrey. There, he lived in anonymity. And, evidently well in advance, planned the gruesome events of Jan. 5. Last week, police revealed that, two months ago, Huang wrote three suicide notes—one to the police, one to his friends and another to family members. Then, he legally acquired two rifles and a shotgun, with an application for the purchase of two handguns still pending. Finally, he called his sister in Los Angeles on that fateful Friday to inform her of his plans. Unaware of his intention to act so swiftly, she elected not to call the police and instead decided to immediately fly to British Columbia.
It was too late. Huang’s son, Jeffrey, 4, was the only one of his children to escape death—his already mortally wounded mother, Jane, pushed him, unharmed, out of the house before collapsing on the driveway. A neighbor took the child in and then phoned 911. By the time police arrived, Huang, 40, had dragged his wife back into the foyer of their luxurious rented townhouse, where he concluded his shooting rampage by turning his gun on himself. Police found the body of Huang’s mother, Tsai Chin Chi, 68, who had arrived from Taiwan the day before, in the hallway. One of his daughters, Rebecca, 15, lay dead in her upstairs bedroom; the other, Amber, 9, in the living-room.
Also in the living-room, pinned to a wall, was Huang’s suicide note to the police, dated Nov. 4. “I am committing suicide,” Huang had written in Chinese. “Sorry for the trouble.” Huang may also have been depressed by the state of his father’s health: the elder Huang had suffered a stroke and was recently diagnosed as having cancer. His problems could account for Huang killing himself— but why his wife, mother and children? In his suicide note, Huang offered little explanation, apart from a twisted motive. He did not, he wrote, want his family to suffer.
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