The mother of the USC graduate student killed near campus last week could barely stand as relatives addressed reporters for the first time Thursday outside an Alhambra funeral home.
Jinhui Du, dressed in black and shaded by large sunglasses, kept crying as a cousin spoke about Du's 24-year-old son, Xinran Ji.
"My son, my son, my son," Du cried in Chinese. "How can I live when you are gone?"
Ji's father, Songbo Ji, kept his eyes clenched shut, shaking his head in grief as he held onto his wife.
Delayed by visa issues, the couple arrived in the U.S. from China late Wednesday nearly a week after their son was fatally attacked near the USC campus. Los Angeles police said Ji, an engineering student, was walking home from a study group about 12:45 a.m. on July 24 when he was beaten with a bat.
Despite a head injury, police said Ji managed to make his way back to his apartment. His roommate found his body later that morning.
Four teenagers -- ages 16 to 19 -- have been charged with murder in connection with Ji's death.
On Thursday, relatives clasped each other tightly as they addressed more than three dozen reporters outside the funeral home. A cousin, Lisheng Liu, said Ji was very ambitious, and had plans to pursue his Ph.D. in the U.S. after earning his master's degree.
"Since he was in elementary school, Xinran was passionate, he was dedicated, he was outstanding," Liu said in Chinese.
After graduating from the prestigious Zhejiang University, Ji had a job opportunity in China, Liu said.
"But he wanted to do better," he said. "He chose to come here to study."
Ji's father, a college professor, and mother, a hospital worker, put their life savings into supporting their son's wish to study in America. They were excited to see him graduate one day, Liu said.
The couple last saw their son over winter break. They wanted him to come home for the summer, Liu said, but because he wanted to graduate early, he asked if he could stay to take a summer class.
The university called the couple with the news about 3 a.m. Beijing time. They didn't believe it, Liu said, until the Chinese consulate called four hours later.
The family met with USC officials Thursday morning and toured the campus, stopping by their son's apartment and meeting his professors.
A memorial at USC was scheduled for Friday.